Frustration at lack of SFP progress: Dodds

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DUP MEP Diane Dodds has met with and listened to the concerns of Fermanagh farmers who have been left worried and frustrated as they have yet to receive their Single Farm Payment.

Mrs Dodds highlighted the repetition of mistakes made by the DARD Minister and her officials around the issue of inspections carried out using control by remote sensing technology.

Commenting after the meeting in Rosslea, Co Fermanagh, Mrs Dodds said: “It was a pleasure to meet such a large and wide ranging group of farmers from the Rosslea, Lisnaskea and Magheraveely areas this week but it is unfortunate the subject matter was the non-payment of Single Farm Payments in the area. The majority of these have been as a result of the control by remote sensing method for inspections, with this area being one of four areas across Northern Ireland.

“This is the second year that this method has been used to inspect farm businesses but I fear the failures we raised at that time have been repeated. This should not be the case.

“During the course of the meeting the feeling of frustration towards DARD and the anxiety of not knowing when they would get paid was extremely apparent. A number of farmers highlighted how they had incurred additional costs with rearranging overdraft facilities or having to lay off staff to control cash flow. This is totally unacceptable and goes against the goals of growing the agri-food sector.

“DARD has, like last year, failed to communicate to farmers the status of their payments which has led to a lot of anger. I would urge the Minister to contact each farmer affected and update them on the status of their payment as a matter of urgency. Currently, many farmers are unaware of where their payment is within the system and when they are likely to be paid leaving it impossible for any business to plan ahead.

“The protocols used by inspectors have also been queried given that many of the farmers had not been informed of the results of the inspection before leaving their premises. One farmer gave an account of being inspected on the 14th November and did not receive an inspection report until the 23rd January; again this is an unacceptable state of affairs.”

Mrs Dodds added: “I know this is not the only area affected by these inspections therefore I would be grateful if anyone who has not yet received their SFP please contact my office with your DARD Farm Business number which we will then raise with DARD.”