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Ministers Coughlan And O'Cuiv Attend North/South Ministerial Council In Enniskillen

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., accompanied by her Cabinet colleague Éamon Ó Cuív T.D., Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs today attended the North/South Ministerial Council Agriculture Sectoral meeting which was held in the college of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh. An Northern Ireland Executive was represented by Michelle Gildernew, MP, MLA, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and Arlene Foster, MLA, Minister of the Environment.

The meeting covered a range of issues including

  • Co-operation on Animal Health
  • Plant Health
  • Common Agricultural Policy Issues
  • Cross-Border Rural Development

Co-operation on Animal Health

The Council noted progress on the activities in the draft All-Island Animal Health and Welfare Strategy including:

  • Agreement on a common chapter in the respective epizootic contingency plans for Foot and Mouth Disease with common chapters for Avian Influenza and Bluetongue to follow.
  • On-going development of a report on the potential for joint data sharing which is expected to be completed by June 2008.
  • Continuing examination of the feasibility of a joint approach to the electronic identification of sheep.
  • The development of common approaches to sheep scrapie genotyping.
  • Development of a common approach to salmonella in line with an EU baseline report which is due to be published in May 2008.

Ministers approved further specific measures to progress the all-island approach relating to Aujeszky's Disease in pigs, and, in conjunction with respective food safety/standard agencies, consideration of the hygiene package with respect to the transmission of food chain information with animals going to slaughter and of the feasibility and priority of an all island approach relating to Trichinella in pigs.

Ministers also noted plans for consultation and a future cross-border event with key agriculture stakeholders from both jurisdictions to discuss the all-island strategic approach.

Plant Health

Ministers noted that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has developed a draft Plant Health Strategy which includes a section on North-South co-operation consistent with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAFF) plant health strategies. They recognised the need to develop a more strategic approach to cross-border co-operation on plant health and pesticides matters and agreed to establish a Steering Group to identify areas of mutual interest in the plant health and pesticides areas.

Common Agricultural Policy Issues

The Council had a broad wide-ranging discussion on issues of common concern in relation to the EU Common Agriculture Policy. They welcomed recent CAP reforms, in particular the significant simplification which has already been achieved to the Single Farm Payment Scheme. Ministers noted the contents of the CAP Health Check communication from the EU Commission and the EU Council conclusions and requested officials to remain in close contact on CAP issues.

Cross-Border Rural Development

The Council discussed an innovative and strategic approach to collaboration and co-operation on Rural Development Programmes aimed at fostering improved community relations in remote rural areas and complementing the economic regeneration of disadvantaged cross-border regions.

In relation to the EU Programmes (2007-2013), Ministers noted the development of proposals for a Rural Enabler Project for submission to the PEACE III Programme. This project aims to bring together rural people from both traditions and migrants to increase understanding and to work to address issues of sectarianism and racism in a rural context.

Ministers also considered a cross-border project under INTERREG IVA to promote tailored rural development initiatives for a number of the most disadvantaged rural regions. They agreed that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs should continue to discuss other aspects of co-operation which would benefit rural communities across the region.

The Council agreed that its next meeting in the Agriculture Sectoral Format would take place in Autumn 2008.

Date Released: 30 April 2008