Assembly Committee Agrees Terms of Submission to Westminster Committee
Date: 13 December 2011
Reference: AGR 09/11/12
At its meeting today the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development agreed the terms of its submission to the EFRA Committee Inquiry ‘Greening the Common Agricultural Policy’. The Committee is also seeking to give oral evidence in support of that submission. If that request is granted, this would be the first time that an Assembly Committee would give oral evidence to an Inquiry by a Westminster Committee.
Before agreeing its position on the draft submission, the Committee took into consideration the views of Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill, Departmental Officials and the Ulster Farmers’ Union. The Committee has also discussed the issue with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture.
Speaking after the meeting Committee Chairperson, Paul Frew MLA said: “The Committee is concerned about a number of the draft proposals. In particular, the Committee feels that crop diversification, measures of permanent pasture, and the percentage for ecological focus areas are inappropriate and unachievable. The Committee believes that these will increase bureaucracy and could discourage farmers from farming, reduce crop production and undermine competitiveness in the market place, not just for farmers, but for the wider agri-food sector.
“The Committee is also concerned about the lack of emphasis on food security, and promotion of the agri-food sector, and is seeking clarification on a number of definitions in the proposals such as ‘active farmer’, ‘small farmer’, ‘agricultural activity’ and ‘permanent pasture’.”
Dolores Kelly MLA, Committee Deputy Chairperson added:
“The Committee will outline all of its concerns in the submission to the EFRA Committee and hope these will be analysed and considered. We welcome the initial indications that the budget will not be reduced, but are mindful that previously there was a failure to negotiate a large enough share of funding to support rural development programmes.”
Paul Frew MLA, concluded by saying:
“The UK government will be negotiating on the proposals on behalf of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. By submitting evidence to this Inquiry we are calling on the EFRA Committee to ensure that regional, as well as national, interests are taken into account. Our determined approach demonstrates that we are seeking to represent, and protect, the interests of the agriculture and rural communities across Northern Ireland on this very important issue.”