24 April 2014

Minister ONeill Completes First Engagements


Newly appointed Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA yesterday began her first day of engagements with a visit to CAFRE’s Greenmount Campus.

Speaking after the visit, the Minister said: "Coming from a rural background in County Tyrone I am only too aware of the challenges that the agri-food sector faces and I am looking forward to getting down to business in my new role. Modern farming is a 24/7 job and our farmers work many long hours to keep food on our tables. As Agriculture Minister I am determined to improve the quality of life of everyone in the countryside.

“In the current difficult economic climate that we all still face, the Agri-Food industry remains one of the success stories of the recession and continues to make a major contribution to our economy, not only by its resilience but also by its increasing productivity. I hope we can all work closely together in the months and years ahead to harness the growth in the supply chain and help the agri-food sector deliver the economic potential that many have predicted.”

The Minister said: “In recent years, particularly with a devolved Minister we have been able to greatly improve animal health and my predecessor Michelle Gildernew did a lot of work to keep bluetongue out of the local industry and reduce Brucellosis (BR) and TB in our herds. It is my intention to help ensure that this downward trend continues under my stewardship and that we can achieve a BR free status as soon as possible.  We will also implement the recent legislation including the Welfare of Animals Act, Dogs Control Act and Diseases of Animals Act.

"I also want to stress my commitment to getting the best possible outcome from the discussions about the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.  That will include making sure we get our fair share of EU funding from Single Farm Payments and the Rural Development Programme.  It will also include advancing our distinctive needs and circumstances on issues as diverse as defining active farmers and greening Pillar I."

Minister O’Neill added: “The new Executive will face many tough challenges and we will have to balance our determination to grow the economy against a backdrop of very tight budgetary constraints. I want to re-assure the wider rural population that I will fight their corner on rural issues and aid the agri-food economy. Partnership and new thinking will also help us drive the agricultural economy over this difficult fiscal period.”

In conclusion the Minister said:  “Over the Assembly term, I am going to be working very closely with everyone involved in the agri-food industry and wider rural community. Together we can make the agri-food sector even better."

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