Agriculture Minister’s New Year’s Resolution must be to help, not hinder farmers - Dobson

Jo-Anne Dobson
Jo-Anne Dobson

“A New Year should bring with it renewed hopes and the opportunity for many resolutions and I hope the Minister makes a resolution to help our farmers in 2016!”

This was the message from Ulster Unionist Party Agriculture spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson who said that in farm yards across Northern Ireland a New Year means only one thing, paying the previous year’s Tax Bill - leading to further worry and financial anxiety amongst already anxious farming families.

The Upper Bann MLA has been meeting up with farmers across the Christmas period to discuss their priorities for 2016.

She commented: “Time and time again I hear from farmers who will struggle to pay their Tax bill at the end of this month and I fear without help some will face financial ruin.

“Times are tough and despite the current downturn in farming profits many businesses will still be faced with large tax bills from last year which must be paid by the end of January. Whilst Tax Averaging will help some it needs to be carefully managed and receiving sound financial advice is always important.

“With a few exceptions practically all sectors of the agri-food industry have been in crisis throughout 2015, however the bills which farmers now face stretch back to 2014. I fear from speaking to many over the Christmas period that this could spell the end of some farming businesses which stretch back many generations.

“As a member of the Agriculture Committee I consistently challenge the DARD Minister and her officials to get out from behind their desks and get into the farm yards to once and for all help our farmers rather than hinder them from afar.

“Without the right level of assistance farming families across Northern Ireland will continue to face hardship – no one could be expected to continue to work whilst receiving below production prices for their produce and unless 2016 sees an upturn in farm gate prices the situation for many will continue to go from bad to worse.

“Farmers are currently looking very carefully at their costs as finances remain tight and farm gate prices struggle. I encourage the Agriculture Minister to look again at her Department’s approach to the 2015 farming crisis as lessons must be learnt if we are to provide a profitable and sustainable future for farming in Northern Ireland.”