The Ulster Farmers’ Union, in releasing its response to the recent DARD proposals for their 2015-16 budget have criticised the proposals as short term, fragmented and lacking in strategic direction.
Commenting on the proposals, UFU president Ian Marshall said: “When we looked back at the Union’s response to the Budget proposals in 2011, we were very disappointed to see that few, if any, of the opportunities to strategically restructure the operations of the department had been implemented or progressed.
“Furthermore, our view of the current budget proposals is that they are essentially piecemeal and internally focused and lacking in any real commitment to maintaining front line services.
“We fully recognise the difficult financial circumstances facing government departments at the present time but, we just cannot understand the logic of an unquestioning commitment to the construction of a new departmental headquarters in Ballykelly, while at the same time deferring the introduction of the Rural Development Programme and a follow on Agri Environment Scheme. And while we also understand the concerns of department staff who might lose their jobs as a result of these financial pressures, we cannot grasp why suggestions which we made some years ago to rationalise and share inspection responsibilities across different departments, and focus on driving cross departmental efficiencies in the areas of research and education, and support for the food sectors, have not yet been considered or implemented.
“The union has focused its response on several practical areas where we believe cost savings could be made without impacting on front line services and we have called on the minister and the department to sit down with industry and listen carefully to its needs, so that a co-ordinated response to support and build this important sector of the economy going forward can be developed.”