As of 2007, financial support for agriculture is also being allocated in accordance with the new Lithuanian Rural Development Programme for 2007-2013 (RDP), pursuant to which Lithuanian farmers will receive approximately 7.8 billion LTL. This support is aimed at: improving the competitiveness of the agricultural and forestry sector, improving the environment and the countryside, improving the quality of life in rural areas, expanding small and non-agricultural business sectors, and creating local capacity for employment of the rural population. The programme consists of more than 50 support measures and spheres of activity that are dedicated to rural development. All measures, programmes and spheres of activity are structured on four principal axes.
All support is administered by a single accredited institution, the National Paying Agency under the Ministry of Agriculture (hereinafter Agency). Since it began implementing the new programme, the Agency has introduced a fair number of innovations which provide more effective and transparent allocation of 2007-2013 funds, and also increasingly make the application process more straightforward for the farmers themselves.
Farmers experienced the first changes in 2007, after declaring their crop structures and expressing the desire to receive EU support in accordance with certain RDP measures.
When implementation of the programme began, administration of seven of the measures was transferred to territorial units of the Agency. This decentralisation accelerated the support allocation process and, as a result, payments now reach farmers more quickly. Applications and other documents are processed by territorial units of the Agency‘s Control Department based on the following RDP measures: Early Retirement of Farmers from Agricultural Commodities Production; Semi-Subsistence Farming; Forest-Environment Payments; Setting Up of Young Farmers; Use of Advisory Services; First Afforestation of Agricultural Land; First Afforestation of Non-Agricultural Land. All in all, the challenges were met rather successfully: the evaluation of 3,245 applications (of the 3,873 submitted in 2007-2008 in accordance with the afore-mentioned RDP measures), was completed in 2008.
Additionally, since 2007 farmers complete a single general application, which can be used for both declaring utilised agricultural areas (hereinafter UAA) and requesting support according to four measures of the Lithuanian Rural Development Programme for 2007-2013: Agri-Environment Payments; Payments to Farmers in Areas with Handicaps, other than Mountain Areas; The NATURA 2000 Payments and Payments linked to Directive 2000/60/EC; NATURA 2000 Payments.
The year 2008 is important to both the National Paying Agency and to Lithuanian agriculture as a whole, because the implementation of RDP is in full swing: applications are being collected according to nearly all RDP measures, a number of financial support investment contracts have been signed, and beneficiaries have received significant funds. Initial RDP results indicate that funds allocated to Lithuania will be utilised successfully.