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Minister Coughlan hosts North/South Ministerial Council in Donegal

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Mary Coughlan TD, today hosted the North/South Agricultural Sectoral meeting in Donegal. This was the first such meeting since the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly. Minister Coughlan was accompanied by Éamon Ó'Cuív TD, Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in the meeting with the Northern Ireland delegation comprised of Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and Arlene Foster, MLA, Minister of the Environment.

The Ministers noted the progress made since the last meeting in September 2002 and welcomed the opportunity to come together to discuss co-operation in the agricultural sector. They welcomed the mutually beneficial collaborative work taken in response to the recent outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease and Bluetongue Disease and earlier outbreaks of Avian Influenza in Britain. This co-operation had ensured a common approach was adopted in dealing with the threat posed by these diseases while maintaining trade levels.

The topics discussed included co-operation on animal health and welfare, plant health, Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) issues and cross border rural development.

In relation to animal health and welfare, the Ministers restated that the free movement of animals on the island continues to be the ultimate aim of the animal health and welfare strategy and that the way forward is through co-operation and the development of complementary policies.

On plant health, the Ministers agreed that North/South co-operation should focus on the status of pests and diseases threatening the island's plant health and co-operation on EU matters. They noted that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is developing a plant health strategy for Northern Ireland which will include a section on North/South co-operation consistent with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food plant health strategies.

Minister Coughlan said that there had been a very useful discussion on development in the CAP. The Ministers agreed that the officials from the Departments should remain in close contact on a range of key CAP issues including the forthcoming "CAP Health Check", World Trade Organisation and the EU Commission's recent adoption of a single Common Market Organisation and the reform of the fruit and vegetable sector. They noted that the future North/South Ministerial Council meetings will consider and review common challenges and opportunities arising from the EU dimension of agriculture.

The Ministers also noted the work of the North/South Steering Committee on Cross Border Rural Development. They agreed that the future work of the Committee should focus on developing the maximum co-operation in the implementation of rural development programmes and policy, including EU programmes and to examine the scope for a common approach to the feasibility of developing cross-border area based strategies and rural development research.

9 November 2007

Date Released: 09 November 2007