The Ulster Farmers’ Union has said that the Department of Agriculture must ensure that frontline services are protected following the proposed £30 million budget cut for 2015/16.
UFU President Ian Marshall said: “The Minister has outlined her proposals for cutting nearly £30 million out of DARD’s budget for next year and while we would prefer to see no cuts to the DARD budget, we recognise the current financial difficulties facing the government.
“The most important thing for farmers will be to ensure frontline services are not adversely affected and against this background the news that 300 jobs may be at risk is cause for concern. We are aware that the Minister has given broad commitments to continue to fund the farm development side of ‘Going for Growth’, ANCs, CAFRE, and that she has also outlined that reduced resources will mean a more efficient individual farm inspection regime, all of which are positive. However, there are areas such as delaying the introduction of important measures within our new Rural Development Programme and cutting agricultural research, while protecting the wider Rural Development funds which are going to the Local Action Groups, that are both disappointing and potentially damaging to the industry.”
The UFU will be examining the Agriculture Minister’s proposals in more detail and will submit a response to the consultation.
Mr Marshall concluded: “The cuts to DARD’s budget are very much a concern, as are the cuts across the NI Executive. We have seen it before; rural communities tend to be hit hardest in a situation like this. The possible threat of a scaling back of rural services as a result of budget cuts is worrying and we are urging all government departments to ensure rural services are protected.”