More help is needed from DAERA, says McAleer

Declan Mc Aleer MLA in the Sperrins where floods caused widespread damage and livestock loss.
Declan Mc Aleer MLA in the Sperrins where floods caused widespread damage and livestock loss.

Sinn Féin’s Agriculture spokesperson, Declan McAleer has welcomed steps taken by DAERA to alleviate the flood crisis experienced by farmers in the Sperrins area, but says that more assistance and support is needed from DAERA and other agencies.

Mr Mc Aleer said: “Since our meeting last week with the Permanent Secretary and his senior officials, I have been meeting farmers across the affected area and have reported back to the department their concerns and questions.

“Whilst I welcome the steps that the department has taken including seeking a 70% advance of the Basic Payment, opening the Force Majeure application process, the livestock removal scheme and organizing advice clinics, there are a number of key issues which must be urgently addressed.

“A key issue for farmers is the huge deposits of gravel, silt and sand on the low lying ‘holm’ fields at the river.

“Farmers are so inundated with this that it is beyond their capability to deal with it. An urgent solution must be found to address this.

“This issue is compounded by the fact that a lot of livestock is buried under the landslides and entangled in fencing, debris and trees.

“The stench along the valley of rotting carcasses is overwhelming in places and this will create environmental health issues and they leech into the streams and rivers.

“The livestock removal scheme is very welcome but given that a lot of the stock is buried in the debris and in areas that farmers cannot access, this makes it very difficult to make the carcasses available for collection.

“Farmers are also anxious about the Force Majeure applications.

“They fear that this could result in more inspections and the consequent delay to their Basic Payment and given the extent of the damage they are fearful that some land may not be capable of being brought back into agricultural use for the 2018 application year.

“An over-riding call from the farming community is the urgent need for a financial hardship scheme to help them cope with the devastation and loss,” he added.