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How much the EU funds Northern Ireland agriculture

MORE than 38,000 farmers and rural projects across Northern Ireland shared nearly £350million of European Union (EU) funding in a single year, according to the latest breakdown of figures.

Detail Data has examined the payments distributed under the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 2013/14 to 38,006 recipients which included farmers and also other landowners or their representatives, rural businesses, community groups, councils and education boards. 

CAP is a system of subsidies and support programmes for agriculture operated by the European Union. CAP payments include direct funding, which is mainly a subsidy for farmers, and rural development grants which are also open to community groups. Some Rural Development Programme schemes are co-funded which means they include UK and EU funds.

The UK government publishes details of all direct payments and rural development funds paid out, as a result of a new European Regulation on transparency in CAP funding. 

Key findings

The analysis of the 2013/14 CAP figures shows:

  • £266.3million was paid out in single farm payments and £83.1million in rural development funding: a total of £349.4million.
  • Beneficiaries based in the Enniskillen area received the largest amount of CAP funding - £38.9million in total. This was followed by the Omagh area (£33.3million) and then the Ballymena area (£27.3million).
  • The top ten town/city areas each received over £10million in EU payments – Enniskillen, Omagh, Ballymena, Newry, Dungannon, Armagh, Derry/Londonderry, Craigavon, Coleraine and Magherafelt. The majority of these towns/cities are west of Northern Ireland which is an area that historically struggles to attract as much funding as the east.
  • Single farm payments to 36,707 beneficiaries ranged from £13.36 to £322,182.

It’s not just farmers who benefit from CAP funding. We also looked at the CAP funding awarded to community groups for the benefit of their local area.

The ARC Healthy Living Centre is a Fermanagh-based health and wellbeing charity and social enterprise. Its aim is to help the local community’s most vulnerable and rurally isolated people lead healthier and happier lives.

In 2013/14, ARC received £573,692 in rural development funding to build a centre in Irvinestown to provide services and health promotion activities for the local area.  The facility was part-funded by South West Action for Rural Development and also received financial support from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and the Public Health Agency.

ARC's chief executive officer Jenny Irvine said:

“The Rural Development Programme-funded project enabled us to have our child-based and adult services co-located on the one site but in different buildings.

“We have had a 20% increase in terms of our service usage since the new centre opened. It is exceptionally well used. We had over 15,000 service contacts through our buildings last year alone.

“It was good for our own confidence and credibility to successfully navigate the rigour of a European building project and to come in on time and within budget.” 

Aidan Campbell is policy and public affairs officer at Rural Community Network. He said:

“CAP funding is important to rural communities and especially to farmers as many farm businesses need the subsidy to remain viable. Some of that money is then recycled into other rural businesses as farmers spend it on inputs into their farm.

“The Rural Development Programme is an important source of funding for rural communities and has supported a wide range of service delivery and community infrastructure projects as well as encouraging farm diversification projects, supporting small rural businesses and developing tourism projects.

“If the UK does vote to leave the EU there are no guarantees that Westminster will match this level of funding to farmers or rural communities and we know that the Assembly block grant will be constrained for the foreseeable future.

“Another story by Detail Data showed that Invest NI spent £66m supporting local businesses in rural areas over three years. So money coming from Europe provides a much higher level of financial support to rural communities than the funding rural businesses receive from our main economic agency.

“However, the other point to remember is that CAP funding will reduce gradually anyway over the next ten years as the EU directs a greater proportion of the CAP budget to central and eastern European farmers where agriculture is in much greater need of modernisation.”

For more on this data story by Kathryn Torney, click here