DUP MEP Diane Dodds has criticised the recent announcement by the DARD Minister, Michelle O’Neill, that she intends to exclude ‘old’ young farmers from 50% grant aid support under the Farm Business Improvement Scheme.
Mrs Dodds said many ‘old’ young farmers - as they now have been named by the industry - are disappointed, if not angry, that they have been excluded from the young farmer top-up due to having become head of holding during the five years preceding the 2015 application.
She added: “For many, there now exists a perception that they are being penalised for moving ahead and taking the plunge to become active in the sector with new ideas for their businesses.
“Unfortunately, the DARD Minister has added further insult to injury by announcing that the new Farm Business Improvement scheme will allow for a 50% grant aid for only those who comply with the young farmer top up eligibility criteria.
“This will ultimately exclude the old young farmer from an additional 10% grant funding and potentially restricting their capacity to avail of support generally given the lower priority given to them,” Mrs Dodds added.
“I do intend to get further clarity from the Minister on how she envisages the scheme being rolled out.
“ I do think it is unfair that people should be penalised twice for something which is outside their control, especially under these circumstances.
“If it is something which has to be brought to the attention of the European Commission, I will examine opportunities for doing so, particularly given that the Rural Development Programme has yet to be accepted in Europe there may be an opportunity to revisit this issue.”