North Antrim UUP MLA Robin Swann has challenged the Farming Minister to speed up the Countryside Management Scheme payments after it has emerged only 34 per cent of schemes have been paid to date.
Mr Swann, pictured, a member of the Stormont Agriculture Committee, issued his challenge to the Minister following a written question to her, stressing that he was “bitterly disappointed that only 34 per cent of Countryside Management Schemes have been paid to date. This is a pathetic rate of payments”.
Mr Swann had asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to detail the number of applicants paid under the Countryside Management Scheme.
Responding to Assemblyman Swann, the Minister said: “Payments to the older ‘legacy’ agri-environment scheme claimants are generally within the expected timescales from the agreement anniversary.
“Payments of 2015 NICMS claims have commenced and over 500 claims have already been paid out of a total of 1,477 eligible claimants.
“I am very aware of the importance of these payments to participating farmers and I can assure you that my Department will continue to strive to make all payments as soon as possible.
“I would urge any participant who has received a second stage claim for NICMS to check this carefully, make any necessary adjustments and return the claim promptly to my department,” the minister said.
Mr Swann added: “However, I also asked the minister when she expects all payments to have been made, but she has failed to provide an answer to that specific question at the moment.
“This scheme provides much-needed funding for our hard-pressed farming industry, and I fully intend to keep pressing both her and her department to speed up the payments.”