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Rural development funding priorities announced

Words: Roger Milne

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill has announced key details and priorities for the next phase of Northern Ireland’s Rural Development Programme from now until 2020.

The budget of £623 million, part funded by the European Union, will be used to support the competitiveness of the Province’s agri-food industry, to protect the rural environment and develop Northern Ireland’s rural economies.

Some £173.5million will been allocated for an environmental farming scheme which will support farmers and land managers to carry out environmentally beneficial practices that sustain and enhance biodiversity, improve the quality of water, air and soil, create small woodlands and help mitigate the impact of climate change.

There will also be a land management programme designed to improve the structure of agricultural soils, effectively manage the carbon stored in soil and ensure that nutrients are utilized in a more sustainable and efficient manner.

Funding of £80million will be available for a range of measures aimed at encouraging the economic development of rural areas. This will provide support for investments in the creation and development of non agricultural activities. Other initiatives will involve a rural broadband scheme, and measures to assist tourism and village renewal projects.