No help for flood hit farmers

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Farmers in the Gortin area have had no financial assistance despite suffering massive damage to fencing during last year’s flooding.

Councillor Bert Wilson has renewed his calls for a hardship scheme to be put in place.

Mr Wilson said he had previously met DAERA officials on the issue but had been told that there was no budget in place for financial assistance.

Now that a budget has been set, he is calling for some of it to be set aside to help farmers for the replacement of fencing.

He added: “Last year fences were all washed away and it would be very difficult for farmers to let cattle and sheep out at the current time.”

He said planning issues are also creating problems in the Fermanagh and Omagh Council area, with 27 applications from farmers currently sitting for over a year due to delays by NIEA.

Councillor Wilson added: “27 applications haven’t been looked at and no decisions have been taken. A lot of these applications relate to farmers who have applied for funding through the young farmer scheme and in some cases the delay is such that they may end up losing out on the grant funding.

“I have been told that this even puts the council in a difficult position because they have quotas to meet too and can’t have applications sitting in the system for over a year. The planners can’t do anything with these applications until the reports come from NIEA. This is creating serious problems for farmers, the council and the planning department.”

Councillor Wilson said he was also very concerned at the current shortage of fodder being experienced on farms across the province.

“In the Republic of Ireland fodder is being brought in from England and I know in our own case we had to buy in 2,000 tonne of silage and there is no sign of an early spring. A scheme is going to be available for the farmers in the South and I think we should have a hardship scheme for farmers up here.

“We weren’t able to cut our third cut and we had 80 acres of wholecrop which wasn’t cut. There is a serious problem for the industry at the present and I feel that we need the same assistance as the farmers down south are receiving,” he added.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has said that it is becoming increasingly concerned about the continuing cold weather and the pressure on farmers of having enough fodder to feed their livestock.

If you are facing a fodder shortage, please contact your local group office or UFU headquarters on 028 9037 0222 so that UFU can gauge what the situation is.

Meanwhile, Farmers for Action Farmers For Action have requested a meeting with Permanent Secretary Denis McMahon in connection with the looming fodder crisis as a matter of urgency.

William Taylor, FFA NI co-ordinator stated: “No doubt some Northern Ireland farmers may have enough reserves going forward depending on how soon Spring actually arrives but many others will not, due to livestock having to be housed so early in 2017.”

FFA wish to ask the Permanent Secretary what is the maximum he can do to help within the limits of his office.

Meanwhile, a DAERA spokesperson stated: “DAERA’s CAFRE advisors have been providing practical advice and support to farmers from Summer 2017 and our online support tools have been beneficial in helping farmers to manage fodder stocks and supplies against demand. The late spring has created an additional and unwelcome pressure and the Department is currently working with the agri-food industry and farming representatives to assess the emerging situation.

“Advisors from CAFRE continue to be available on the ground to provide practical support and advice to farm businesses affected. CAFRE staff can be contacted on 0300 200 7843 should farmers wish to seek advice. We will continue to monitor the position closely. Further specific advice is available on the Departmental website at http://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/news/fodder-advice-farmers.”