Ulster Unionist MLA Rosemary Barton, has called for changes to be made to the Independent Agricultural Appeals process, the system employed by the Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to review farmer appeals to the department.
In a statement Mrs Barton said: “There is a major gap in the DAERA appeals process whereby if a farmer doesn’t agree with a decision of that department they can implement an appeal process, the first stage of which is directly back to DAERA, where another member of staff adjudicates, however very few of these are successful. The next stage is to an independent appeal panel.
“It is deeply frustrating for farmers to find they have made a successful case to the independent appeal panel, only to learn that DAERA have over-ruled this and continue to reject the farmers application.
“I am not aware of any other appeals process in Northern Ireland whereby an independent appeals procedure can be overturned by the minister. I wouldn’t be as concerned if some of the decisions were going in favour of the farmers, but unfortunately these decisions are being made at the farmers’ expense.”
The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA added in conclusion: “This is an unsustainable position for DAERA, which has gone for far too long, it needs immediate change.”