Ritchie Calls for Clarification on Farmers’ Aid Scheme
SOUTH Down SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie, who is a member of the House of Commons Scrutiny Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has welcomed the funding package from the Northern Ireland Executive for farmers hard hit by the cold weather crisis but urged the Executive to move quickly to confirm details of the scheme to ensure immediate implementation. This, she said, is the lesson to be learnt from this extreme weather event.
“Following representations to the Northern Ireland Executive earlier this week, I am pleased they have agreed to provide £5 million towards farmers who have endured immense suffering and hardship this week due to extremely bad weather. These Farmers in the Mournes and Dromara/Slieve Croob areas endured sheep and lamb losses.
“Such losses will have an impact on their livelihoods and income, and it will take quite a considerable time to build up stocks again as part of a renewal programme. Farmers also endured difficulties in accessing their animals and farms. It took several days to clear the roads in the Mournes and Slieve Croob areas.
“I understand that this £5 million scheme will cover the cost of disposal of the fallen animals and a hardship scheme. I further understand that the details of the scheme specification have not yet been identified. It is important that the Minister is able to clarify how many farmers will be eligible for this scheme; the numbers and location of fallen animals; scheme specification details including the criteria that will be used to assess the value of the animals; application opening and closing details and the timescale for payment.
“This needs to be done as quickly as possible to provide comfort and reassurances to the affected farmers in the Mournes and Slieve Croob farmers.
“I would urge all affected farmers to make immediate contact with DARD for eligibility purposes and application forms. Should any farmer experience problems or delays with clarifications on eligibility or payment purposes, please do not hesitate to contact me so that representations can be made to DARD,” added Ms Ritchie.
“Crucial to this experience is the need for the Northern Ireland Executive to have an adequate emergency scheme in place which is capable of dealing with such unprecedented events. It is important that such a co-ordinated alleviation package swings into action immediately in the wake of extreme weather events. Communities including farmers need to be assured that the NI Executive has measures in place to work in partnership with local communities to provide humanitarian and farming aid – that is the lesson that must be learnt from this extreme weather event”.