Speaking at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis last weekend, the North’s Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill confirmed her ongoing commitment to the agri-food sectors.

“It is the agri-food sector that has continued to grow through the worldwide recession and it is also this sector that offers the greatest hope for leading Ireland to recovery and creating jobs,” she added.

The minister went in to point out that she is committed to the ‘Going for Growth’ policies espoused by the Agri Food Strategy Board.

“This strategy has the potential to create 15,000 new jobs and lever in £1.4bn sterling of private sector investment by increasing our agricultural output by 60 per cent,” she added.

“I’m committed to living up to my commitments that I have made to the industry and I have the opportunity to do that with Common Agriculture Policy Reform.”

According to the minister, she will be seeking the wider support of the Stormont Executive  for funding for the opportunities that will evolve the agri-food sector.

“One of the major issues facing the farming community is CAP Reform, I have spent the past number of years dealing with and negotiating the deal in Europe,” she commented.

“Sinn Féin wants to see a well funded, flexible and most importantly fair CAP Reform.

“I want to see growth for all sectors of agriculture not just for some, therefore moving to a flat rate of payments sooner rather than later is both correct and badly needed. Basing your system on arrangements from 2002 is beyond justification and must end soon.

“In addition there have some proposals in the north of Ireland of separating out the severely disadvantaged areas of the countryside from the rest and paying a lesser rate in those disadvantaged areas.”

The minister concluded: “I have to say I can see no logic in that argument, other than maintaining the sectional interests of large farmers in the lowlands and as I repeatedly said I represent the interests of all farmers not just a few.”