What is the consultation?
In Northern Ireland, DAERA opened a consultation around the development of their Rural Policy Framework, which aims to create a sustainable rural community where people want to live,
work and be active. We see this as an excellent step towards creating sustainable rural communities.
How does this involve farming?
With just over a third of Northern Ireland’s population living in rural areas, and rural areas making up 80% of Northern Ireland’s landmass, there is a clear requirement for any future rural development to put the environment at its core.
What are the NFFN’s key recommendations?
We support the overarching aim of creating ‘a sustainable rural community where people want to live, work and be active’, however, this will only happen if the environment is a central pillar to this overarching aim.
The aim must also be framed within the context of a changing food and farming landscape. Agriculture accounts for 75% of all land use in Northern Ireland and is the backbone of the rural economy. For example, any changes to rural development policy must be consistent with the new funding model that will replace the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Our position is that future agricultural policy should be based on the concept of public money for public goods, with payment schemes that are sufficient in supporting farmers to enhance the natural environment and promote prosperous and resilient rural communities.
This aligns with the key outcomes presented in the Future Agricultural Policy Framework, which talks about recognising and rewarding public goods provided by farmers and making agri-environment a core element of future policy.
NFFN believes that it is essential that the Rural Policy Framework commits to providing an environment in which rural innovation is encouraged and appropriately supported.
We agree that developing and maintaining a sustainable rural tourism sector in Northern Ireland can play an important role in ensuring the long-term prosperity and vitality of our rural communities. We welcome the inclusion of the environment as a priority area of intervention within tourism, but this should be approached with care. Sustainable growth within the sector must be achieved through a clear set of boundaries to prevent extractive tourism.
It is vital for the Rural Policy Framework to acknowledge the challenges faced by farmers and the wider rural population, and the impact that this can have on health and wellbeing. Structures should be created for the provision of local services and support within rural communities to address issues of social exclusion, isolation and loneliness.
Read our consultation response here.