Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill this afternoon launched the public consultation on the NI Rural Development Programme 2014-2020.

Running from 1 July to 21 October 2013, the public consultation invites views on proposals for the next Rural Development Programme.

Minister O’Neill said: “I want to hear from all aspects of rural society – farmers, agri-food businesses, the voluntary and community sector and rural dwellers. This is an opportunity to help us shape the next programme into one that delivers the best outcomes for everyone living or working in our rural areas.

“Many will have experience of the current rural development programme, perhaps as a recipient of a grant or being involved in the delivery of a scheme. This experience will be invaluable as we work to develop a programme that learns lessons from and builds on the successes of its predecessor.”

The new programme has been developed in line with the Europe 2020 strategic objectives of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

The Minister added: “I am particularly pleased to see Europe’s recognition of the importance of measures which tackle poverty and social isolation in rural areas, something which both I and my predecessor have championed. I also propose to develop, within the programme, tailored support for rural cross-border communities.”

The minister also announced her plans for consultation on the equality impact assessment and strategic environmental assessment.

Minister O’Neill said: “The consultation document provides details about these assessments of the next programme. These are two important pieces of work that will ensure that our new programme delivers maximum benefit for the environment and continues to place equality at the heart of everything we do.”

The consultation on the Rural Development Programme forms part of a wider consultation exercise on three draft EU Programmes for 2014-2020, which also includes proposals for the European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme.

The consultation document on the draft Rural Development Programme is now available online here.

Pictured: Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill launches the public consultation on the Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020 with Peter Hannan, managing director of Hannan Meat’s, Moira whose company was supported by funding from the current RDP. The consultation period runs from 1 July – 21 October 2013. Image courtesy DARD.