Byrne calls for urgent EU intervention to support dairy farmers

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SDLP West Tyrone MLA and Vice Chair of the Stormont Agriculture Committee Joe Byrne has repeated his call for specific EU backed intervention to support dairy farmers amid the ongoing farmgate price crisis.

Mr Byrne said: “Dairy farmers across the North are in a dire situation and exceptional measures are needed to relieve the extreme pressures that many are currently operating under.

“This situation has continued for too long and it’s important that we see urgent action from DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill. Farmers cannot operate their farm businesses getting less than 19 pence per litre for milk.

“Immediate consideration must be given to enhanced aid and support for private storage of the current surplus of dairy products – cheese, butter and skimmed milk products. This would remove some surplus product and help create market stability.

“We also need harmonised legislation across the European Union to ensure fairness in farmgate prices. Any such legislation must be based on ensuring that primary producers get a reasonable price that covers, at least, industry production costs.

“The Agriculture Minister must work with her counterpart in Britain to create short term aid and supply payments that can address industry wide cash flow problems faced by primary producers. That must go hand in hand with an early release of a larger slice of Single Farm Payments/basic payments and at least 70% up front payments.”

SDLP Leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell MP added: “The SDLP will continue to press the Minister and the EU commission on these issues. We need a resolution to this crisis as soon as possible to sustain our farming industry and rural communities. Any further delays will mean some farmers going out of business.”