Welcome for early payment of hill support cash

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union has welcomed Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill’s confirmation that the rates for the 2015 Less Favoured Area Compensatory Allowances (LFACA) Scheme in Northern Ireland will remain at the same level as has been the case for the last five years.

The Agriculture Minister has confirmed that payment rates for this LFACA Scheme which was claimed in 2014 will be £23.81 per hectare for Disadvantaged Areas and Common Land and £47.62 per hectare for Severely Disadvantaged Areas.

UFU Hill Farming chairman Ian Buchanan said LFA payments are an important element of farm incomes in less favoured areas and the union welcomes the fact that the minister and her team recognise the value of these payments to the hill farming community.

He added: “The announcement that this support mechanism will make similar rates of payment available to previous years will be pleasing news to farmers.

“With DARD hoping to issue payments in early March, this will provide some much needed reassurance and certainty for farmers planning their cash flow budgets for 2015. Last year was a difficult year for many livestock farmers with high levels of volatility once again witnessed in the market place. This volatility has made it more difficult for businesses to plan and improve margins and this demonstrates the importance of the Less Favoured Area Scheme payments which provides a boost to farms at a key time.

“The UFU Hill Farming Committee continues to monitor the introduction of the new Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme which will replace the LFA Scheme in 2016 and will maintain lobbying efforts to ensure that this scheme operates in a manner which is to the benefit of hill farmers.”

Commenting on the LFACA announcement Farm Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “I can confirm that the rates of payments to be issued in 2015 will remain unchanged. LFACA payments are an important source of income for our farmers and provide a boost to the rural economy. Maintaining these payment rates for a further year provides some financial stability for those in the scheme as we enter a new CAP period.

“I am committed to ensuring that payments are made as early in 2015 as possible.”