John McCallister MLA, Independent Unionist for South Down, has called on Michelle O’Neill, the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development and Arlene Foster, the Minister for Finance and Personnel, to clarify the Executive’s position on the future of Single Farm Payments in light of mixed messages on the Executive’s ability to process future payments in the context of the looming budgetary crisis at Stormont.[caption id="attachment_39609" align="alignleft" width="292"] Independent Unionist John McCallister has called on the DETI and DARD Ministers to clarify the position of Single Farm Payments if a budget crisis emerges.[/caption]
After questioning both the Agriculture and Finance Ministers on the issue, Mr McCallister said: “There is growing uncertainty and mixed messages coming from the Executive with regards the future of Single Farm Payments – this is causing real anxiety amongst hard pressed farmers.
“The Minister for Finance, on the one hand, is suggesting that if the Executive cannot reach agreement on Welfare Reform, a civil servant will have to take over Stormont’s budget and in those circumstances the Department for Agriculture could not process Single Farm Payments, suggesting instead the Rural Payments Agency might need to take over.
“The Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development informed me, after questioning, that she is making no contingency plans because she firmly believes the Department can process the payments whatever the circumstances.
“These two contradictory messages are illustrative of the dysfunctional and at times irresponsible politics at the heart of the Executive.
“At a time when many farmers are under real pressure, the last thing they need is uncertainty about their future income. I urge the Executive to come to an agreement on Welfare Reform as quickly as possible, and in the absence of agreement, I urge Michelle O’Neill and Arlene Foster to provide some clarity on what will happen to Single Farm Payments,” added Mr McCallister.]]>