Refuting claims by DUP representatives that the Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill did not consult on Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 transfer Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said:
“Sinn Féin has taken the DARD Ministry for two consecutive Assembly terms which demonstrates clearly our dedication to Farmers and the Rural Community. There is no doubt of our determination to guarantee a thriving, sustainable rural economy. We know that Farmers and Rural Communities are among our greatest assets.
“I want to take this opportunity to clear up some mischievous commentary by DUP representatives.
“The DARD Minister Michelle O Neill did in fact consult with her Ministerial colleagues in July 2013 about the potential transfer of funds between Pillar 1 and Pillar 2. Only five Ministers replied and only the DOE Minster made specific reference to the Pillar transfers.
“During the last funding round 2007-2013 there was a 6% transfer from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 amounting to £118 million, so the decision to transfer is not a departure from previous ministerial decisions.
“Among the beneficiaries of the last transfer were those involved in the creation of new farm diversification businesses like Harrison’s Farm shop and restaurant in Greyabbey, which created almost a dozen jobs, and Todd’s Leap in Ballygawley, creating up to 30 jobs. Such Job Creation opportunities were only achievable through the transfer of modulated funds from Pillar 1 and are a clear demonstration of its potential as an economic multiplier.
“The proposed 7% transfer from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 amounted to £137million and this would have funded schemes for farmers, linked to the agri-food strategy, such as capital grant schemes for new sheds, fencing etc, or loan schemes that would help expand their businesses as well as Less Favoured Area payments.
“Without transfer from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2, potential funding will be reduced for agri-food competitiveness, the environment and rural development. This is bad news for rural communities, the environment and the agri-food industry.
“The bulk of funding from Pillar 2 goes directly to farmers so with a zero transfer, some farmers, particularly those with a small Single Farm Payment, could experience a reduction in total amounts received under the CAP as a whole.
“The rural development programme is an important mechanism in developing and investing in our agri-food industry and the economic and social development of our rural areas and in addressing key environmental challenges.
“These Politicians who are so keen to be “seen” as defenders of farmers need to explain to the Rural community how voting for cuts to the EU budget in Westminster and Brussels and blocking fair distribution of funds at Assembly level helps farmers and the Rural environment.