SDLP South Down Assembly Candidate Colin McGrath has called on DARD to directly assist farmers in reducing bureaucracy
He stated: “The increase in form filling and bureaucratic demands on our farming community will not be eased by DARD simply saying the best option to cut down bureaucracy is to go online.
“Surely DARD is aware that farming is a rural based economy with an aging profile. In many cases, it therefore only increases the pressure on farmers to push them towards an online system that they cannot access due to the lack of internet connection in their area or indeed have had no experience of it during their lifetime in farming.
“I have made representations to DARD asking that they look at the new round of Rural Development Funding and the opportunities there to fund infrastructure projects that would connect more of our farmers to the internet. In conjunction with this DARD also need to seriously look at increasing personnel resources to give farmers the one to one assistance needed in many cases to complete these forms and meet the many deadlines they face.
“Given DARD’s support for the ongoing EU Better Regulation Programme aimed at making EU law simpler and less costly, it only makes sense that they would take the lead at the regional level to ensure that they are doing all they can to assist our farming community.
“This has to be a priority for the incoming Northern Ireland Executive and the new Assembly – protecting rural farming communities and ensuring that they have proper and adequate access to Broadband connections and that bureaucracy is reduced,” he said.