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Committee convenes special meeting

Session: 2006/2007

Date: 21 August 2007

Reference: AGR 08/07

The Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development met today in a specially convened meeting to consider some matters urgently.

Department officials provided the Committee with an extensive update on the Foot and Mouth disease outbreak. The Committee, in expressing its satisfaction at the action taken to date and, in particular, recognising the importance of the derogation secured in Brussels that has allowed our exports to continue, agreed the progression of legislation which gives the Department additional powers to deal with this outbreak. The Committee endorsed the Department’s call for ongoing vigilance.

A principal reason for convening this meeting was to allow the Committee to progress the statutory rule providing for the final payment of the Less Favoured Areas Compensatory Allowance (LFACA). The initial payments, totalling £9.9m, were made in January 2007 but a second payment, totalling £11.1m, required EU approval. This was given at the end of July 2007. The Committee, aware of the need to have this allowance paid to farmers as soon as possible, has approved its stage of the statutory rule and urged the Department to move quickly to paying the allowance.

Department officials also briefed the Committee on a range of budgetary proposals for the coming years. The Committee was concerned at the potential effects of some of the proposals and sought further clarification on a number of issues. A final decision was deferred until the proposals can be considered in more detail at a future meeting.

Dr William McCrea MP, chairperson of the Committee, said:-

“The Committee was due to meet on 4 September but it has cut its holidays to hold this meeting to assist the industry. These have been trying times for the entire industry and everyone has to be commended for their efforts in keeping Foot and Mouth disease out of Northern Ireland and in keeping vital business links open. The Committee has also done its part in progressing the LFACA legislation and now calls on the Department to stand by its declared intention to commence payments on 12 September 2007 and to have at least 94% paid by the end of September 2007.’

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