Swann calls for slurry spreading extension

UUP Leader Robin Swann
UUP Leader Robin Swann

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann has written to the most senior civil servant in DAERA asking for an extension to the slurry spreading deadline beyond October 15.

Mr Swann said: “The weather over the last couple of months has been atrocious. As a result, many farmers have struggled to get much of their second cut of grass lifted, with a large proportion simply not being able to get any at all.

“The hope had been that after an awful August, September would have seen a drier spell such as some previous years. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened and much of the farmland across Northern Ireland still remains completely waterlogged.

“As a result many farmers will be unable to get their slurry out before the closed period starts. It would be absurd if farmers were forced into the ridiculous situation of having to spread flurry on grass that was destined for fodder. I have now written to the Permanent Secretary of DAERA asking him to extend the October 15 deadline until the weather and ground conditions improve.

“If he tries to claim, as I suspect he may, that he is unable to make such a decision in the absence of a Minister I will remind him that only last week a civil servant in another Department made an arguably even more controversial decision by granting permission for a major incinerator in county Antrim.

“With every passing day, the anxiety of local farmers is growing. Not only have many struggled to get a second cut, their problems are being exacerbated by the fact that a large number of them have been housing cattle now for several weeks. As a result not only do they risk potentially not getting their second cut lifted at all, unless there is a quick turn in the weather there is a real risk that Northern Ireland is staring down the barrel of a fodder crisis.

“So with these pressures the last thing farmers need is the stress of having to rush to get their slurry tanks emptied. The deadline has often been pushed back over recent years on account of bad weather and wet ground conditions, so there is no reason at all why it could not be delayed this year also.

“It would be disgraceful however if the impasse at Stormont meant that a decision wasn’t taken to delay it.”