Alex Easton MLA, has welcomed the announcement that an agreement had been reached on the future of CAP payments in Northern Ireland and funding for the next Rural Development Programme.

Alex Easton MLA said:

‘‘Local farmers in North Down will welcome the deal that has been reached by the Northern Ireland Executive on implementing the CAP reforms and other issues that affect our agri-food sector.

During the entire process, the DUP advocated a slow transition period towards a flat rate payment. Whilst we would have preferred an even slower move, the deal agreed offers the greatest flexibility in the UK on this particular aspect of the reforms. The seven year transition will give businesses both the platform and the time to adapt, and will negate many of the problems that were forecast had the Sinn Fein-endorsed position of an immediate transition been adopted.

The announcement that agreement has been reached for the funding of the next Rural Development Programme and a Farm Business Development scheme, is also to be welcomed. This will result in funding for worthwhile projects not just for farmers but also for rural communities.

It is vital that DARD brings forward detailed plans for a scheme that will increase farm productivity. I will be seeking a scheme for on-farm investment, such as currently operated in Scotland, to be introduced in Northern Ireland. This should involve capital grants for the construction of farm buildings and carrying out land improvements. Following the allocation of additional resources, an agri-environment scheme for all land types throughout Northern Ireland also needs to be developed as a matter of urgency.

I will hold both the DARD Minister and her officials to account, to ensure that schemes are developed to help farmer businesses increase outputs and improve their profitability.”