DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill has moved to reassure farmers that any budget crisis at Stormont would not impact on this year’s farm subsidy payments.
In a leaked document obtained by the BBC, Finance Minister Arlene Foster had suggested that no deal on welfare would result in the Executive having to make cuts of £604m to balance its books.
It is understood her paper stated that under legislation income received such as planning fees and EU farm payment could not be spent.
Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has now moved to reassure farmers that they will receive their subsidy payments for this year.
She said: “I want to reassure farmers that their subsidy payments are safe. The application window closed last Friday, and there is now a firm contractual obligation on Government to make these payments to farmers. I will be writing to Executive colleagues accordingly, to ensure our obligations are honoured.
“Funding for these payments comes ultimately from the European Commission. The payments generate a receipt for my Department, and we usually draw down this funding just ahead of making the payment. I do not see this process being obstructed.”