The people of the North West are now coming to terms with the realisation of the devastation, which has been caused by the deluge of rain and flash floods last Tuesday, August 22, writes David Rankin.
Communities worked tirelessly together in torrential rain to rescue people, livestock and crops.
Many pictures and videos on social media portrayed the courage and community spirit of farmers and their machinery, usually link boxes and slurry equipment, being deployed at a moment’s notice to assist people and livestock trapped by the floods.
It is only now, when the shock has eased that farming families are coming to terms with the devastation and destruction, which has happened to their communities.
Dwelling houses flooded, farm sheds and other buildings submerged in water, fencing washed away.
Landslides in the Sperrins and other hill areas caused havoc to streams, rivers and farmland. Livestock have been lost, both cattle and sheep disappeared from fields where they were grazing and 55,000 poultry drowned when they could not escape.
This is a very anxious time for farm families looking to the future and where to start the trek back to some sort of normality. It is vital that statutory agencies show empathy and provide support and assistance. These people not only need financial assistance but they need sound advice of how to get their farming businesses back on track and improve the productivity of their destroyed fields.
Mary McCormack (Vice-chairperson of the Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA (NI)) and her colleagues in the North West are working very closely with all those who are affected to ensure they complete the Force Majeure forms.
DAERA want these forms completed and submitted before 14 September 2017, so that payments cannot be put at jeopardy.
Many may think that DAERA are being heavy handed or bureaucratic in telling those farmers affected to submit this paperwork, but sadly that is the rule if you want subsidy payments. However many are looking for advice and DAERA and all the agencies must get out and advise farmers on the ground.
This bureaucracy has been made worse by DAERA selecting some areas affected by the flooding for Remote Sensing Inspections. Luckily many of these inspections have already been carried out, but many farmers in these areas will now not receive an advance payment in October due to the administration checks needed to ensure the correct field area is being claimed.
Officials from ACA (NI) will meet DEARA Policy in Dundonald House in September and will be bringing this to their attention, emphasizing the urgent need for advance payment in the areas affected.
David Rankin, Chairman of ACA (NI) has already written to all his clients in the North West and other members of ACA (NI), advising and assisting their own clients and others whose land has been damaged in the floods.
The important role for ACA (NI) members is to submit a Force Majeure form for their clients as soon as possible and well ahead of the deadline of 14th September 2017.
Mary McCormack is also advising farmers to provide as much evidence as possible to accompany their form.
Photographs are particularly useful, especially of damage in fields and around the farmyard.
If farmers have difficulty in taking photographs, they should ask other members of the family, neighbours or ACA (NI) members to assist them to gather this valuable evidence.
This “Exceptional Circumstances” FML1 form will inform DAERA of the damage caused to farmland and help protect Basic Payment Scheme, Greening, Young Farmers Scheme, ANC and other Environmental schemes.
It is evident from the continuing poor weather that much of the improvements to land will not be carried out this year, which will become a problem for the 2018 scheme year.
Permissions for various operations, for example reclamation will need to be sought and ACA (NI) will liaise with other agencies to ensure support, information and guidance is given to farmers and agents going forward.
Agriculture Consultants Association (NI) can assist with these forms and provide information as well as acting as agent with DEARA, NIEA and other statutory bodies.
A list of their members in Counties Londonderry/Derry and Tyrone are stated below.
AGRICULTURAL CONSULTANTS ASSOCIATION (NI) ACA (NI)
Geoff Connell - Maghera - 07714 307411
Roland Corbett - Dungiven - (028) 7774 2225 or 07718 000124
John O’Hagan - Draperstown - (028) 7962 9727 or 07887 620050
Liam Corry - Castlederg - (028) 8167 9699 or 07845 398552
Eileen Elliott - Dungannon - (028) 8775 8297 or 07780 933033
Rory P Gormley & Co Ltd Dromore - (028) 8289 8179
Francis Heagney - Cookstown - (028) 8675 1957 or (028) 8675 1539 or 07709 762717
Eilis Kelly - Pomeroy - (028) 8775 9555 or 07342 971981
Desmond McCarroll - Omagh - (028) 8284 1511 or 07787 522039
Mary McCormack - Carrickmore - (028) 8076 1339 or 07789 067231
Kate McFarland - Newtownstewart - (028) 8166 2432
Peter Thompson - Drumquin - (028) 8283 1202
George Woods - Fintona - (028) 8284 1567 or 07979 004179
There are additional names on the DAERA website for consultants who can help.