Question Time: Agriculture and Rural Development 03 November 2014

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle O’Neill, provided an update on the delivery of the Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation Framework during today’s Question Time. The Minister declared that “the programme is making a real difference to the lives of rural dwellers” and that she is “delighted with the very significant outcomes that have been achieved through the delivery of the framework to date”. Among the schemes being delivered are youth employability and entrepreneurship programmes, the maximising access in rural areas project, fuel poverty and energy efficiency work and the farm family health checks programme. Mrs O’Neill affirmed her commitment to continue tackling the challenges faced by people living in rural communities in the time ahead.

Stewart Dickson then asked the Minister about the measures being taken to mitigate flooding in East Antrim as we prepare to enter the harshest weather conditions of the year. The Minister confirmed that upgrade works costing £150,000 will be deployed in the East Antrim area over the next 12 months. The Rivers Agency will also be carrying out regular maintenance to ensure that water is free-flowing and drainage systems are performing as expected. Mrs O’Neill added that the Department is very pro-active in working with the MET office to plan for the future and the impact of climate change.

The Minister also discussed the latest developments in regards the relocation of DARD headquarters to Ballykelly and the economic benefits that it will bring to the North West, the Rural Development Programme and the Farm Business Improvement Scheme. During the topical question period the Minister also answered Members’ questions on single farm payments, remote sensing inspections, the impact of budget cuts on the food and drink manufacturing sector and the funds required for a new DARD payment system.

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