Agriculture is the biggest industry in Northern Ireland and is the central focus of many rural communities. It is important that a strong and sustainable agricultural sector exists alongside strong and sustainable rural communities. This will include supporting farmers to expand into related businesses and supporting rural communities to maintain their quality of life. Farming is at the heart of the rural economy. It employs just short of 50,000 people. But it faces a range of challenges from areas such as increased competition, climate change and price volatility. We want to secure farming as an industry at the centre of Northern Ireland's economy. Alliance plans to improve the agricultural sector include:
- Reforming CAP to make sure that there is a financially sustainable future for farmers in Northern Ireland and reflects the unique situation in Northern Ireland.
- Using science and technology to make the sector more modern and competitive.
- Introducing a comprehensive animal and plant disease strategy.
- Creating a consistent NI food brand.
- Support a GM-free island.
- Supporting sea fishermen.
Alliance also believes that supporting rural communities is essential to make sure that people who in rural areas have access to the same quality services as those that live in urban areas. We will do this by:
- Supporting rural communities to be at the cutting edge of economic development, with investment in renewable energy.
- Ensuring the roll-out of Next Generation Broadband to rural communities.
- Delivering flexible use of the Rural Transport Fund and Community Transport Schemes so that these services can be maintained.
- Improving education and skills in rural areas.