In a letter to the First and Deputy First Ministers, RSPB Northern Ireland, the Woodland Trust, Ulster Wildlife, Northern Ireland Environmental Link and the National Trust have outlined the consequences the zero per cent transfer of Rural Development Programme (RDP) funding may have on farm businesses and the environment.
In its letter the coalition, which represents more than 100,000 members across Northern Ireland, stresses that investment should be prioritised in schemes which provide value for money for the taxpayer, ensure Northern Ireland is able to meet EU Directives, help keep farm businesses viable and address declines in biodiversity, habitat loss and water quality.
If adequate funding is not made available, 8,000 farmers will drop out of agri-environment schemes by 2015/16, resulting in a significant reduction in income for many farm families and impacting on the sustainability of the wider countryside
The Executive’s own sustainable development targets will also be seriously undermined if a solution to the funding shortfall is not delivered and failure to meet EU targets could result in significant fines, something which the NI Executive cannot afford.
The coalition is urging Peter Robinson and Martin McGuiness to use their influence to ensure that core RDP funding, and the match funding provided by the Executive prioritises agri-environment schemes to support our local economy and meet our European legal obligations, while helping us to remain a first class tourist destination and reversing the decline in our iconic species and habitats.
James Robinson, RSPB Northern Ireland Director, commented: “Agri-environment was one of the only sources of funding helping to improve the sustainability of the wider countryside. Without vital funding support from the Executive, NI will struggle to protect the productive base of agriculture on which we all depend.”