ULSTER Farmers’ Union President Harry Sinclair has written to DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill expressing Union members’ concerns regarding attempts to move Voluntarily Modulated (VM) money between axes of the Rural Development Programme, specifically, the possibility of moving as yet uncommitted funds from the Axis 3 farm diversification fund (Measure 3.1).
Funding allocated to Farm Diversification has, over the years, been siphoned directly from the Single Farm Payment Scheme through Voluntary Modulation.
Mr Sinclair said: “The Farm Diversification Measure offers farmers an opportunity to access funding that will allow them to invest, diversify and grow their businesses. This is especially important in the current climate given last year’s volatile weather and 50% drop in farm incomes. It seems incredible to me that DARD wish to take money from this measure and reallocate it elsewhere. The statistics from the last Rural Development Monitoring Committee show that there is still strong demand for Farm Diversification grant funding and I believe these applications should be prioritised. The proposal to reallocate funding is even more alarming when there are numerous completed diversification applications that have not even been assessed yet.