Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman William Irwin MLA and his colleague Edwin Poots MLA have met with DAERA officials at Dundonald House to discuss the slurry spreading deadline.
Mr Irwin said both he and Mr Poots had been inundated with calls from concerned farmers who are facing very real difficulties in terms of persistent wet weather and the impact this is having.
Mr Irwin stated: “Both myself and Edwin had a useful engagement with DAERA officials on Thursday at Dundonald House and we used this opportunity to fully brief the officials on the very real difficulties many farmers are facing.
“We pressed on the Department the seriousness of the situation facing farmers many of whom are under severe stress with second and third crops of silage still on the fields. Many farmers have had to house stock early which has exacerbated the problem, leaving reduced capacity to carry enough slurry for the closed period. For many the weather has made planning for the winter an impossible task whether that be for slurry or having sufficient fodder.
“Ground conditions and the persistent nature of rainfall over the past six weeks has been incredibly difficult. Farmers have hoped for better weather week after week but this has failed to materialise adding more pressure to an already difficult situation.”
Mr Poots stated: “The current crisis facing farmers highlights the fact that farming in many aspects cannot be carried out exactly to the calendar month and the current spell of persistent wet weather has proven this. Wide ranging EU legislation, which is rigid in its application, is simply not flexible enough to allow farmers here in Northern Ireland to react to the changing weather patterns. Farming by dates does not work in this scenario in fact spreading in these current conditions could in some cases be counter productive.”
Mr Irwin said: “The Department stressed to us that farmers that have a reasonable excuse to spread slurry may be able to do so, provided they ensure they have kept adequate records. There is assistance, more information and help with guidelines for farmers using the clause of reasonable excuse either through the Ulster Farmers’ Union or CAFRE advisers. It is important that farmers spreading slurry endeavour to ensure that they carry spreading out as per Department guidelines, adhering to distances from drains and water courses and ensure ground is not waterlogged at the times of spreading.
“On a positive note Edwin and I were pleased Department officials confirmed that on Monday morning in the region of 21,000 payments will be paid out to the value of 70% and will be in farmers bank accounts by the middle of next week.”