West Tyrone Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

Sinn Féin press for additional support of Hill Farmers in Assembly

Published: 21 May, 2013

West Tyrone MLA Declan Mc Aleer says that Agriculture Minister Michelle O Neill has committed to continuing to target the needs of hill farmers in response to a Sinn Fein motion debated in the Assembly yesterday.

He said,

"Our party's motion asked the Assembly to recognise the particular and unique difficulties experienced by hill farmers and called upon the Minister to bring forward additional measures to support the sustainability of farming on lands classified as less-favoured areas.

"Speaking to the motion, I focused on how this last year's unrelenting poor weather conditions have been having a disproportionately disastrous impact upon farmers who live in areas designated as less-favoured such as we have in hills and in mountainous areas such as the Sperrins.

"I described how in this part of the world have been reduced to mud tracks resulting in livestock having to be housed earlier, eating into already depleted silage stock. In many cases, the wet weather prevented second and third cuts from being made. The combination of wet weather and, indeed, the drought in the US has resulted in the cost of feed going through the roof.

"In welcoming the Minister's introduction of the fodder scheme, that opened at midnight on Saturday, I also commended her swift response to the blizzards in March where she took the time to visit areas such as Cranagh and Sperrin and for in drafting in emergency supplies to support the stricken farm communities and for then initiating the hardship scheme.

"I outlined how apart from the weather and the rising cost of feed, there are uncertainties around the future of subsidies as we move from LFAs to ANCs - areas of natural constraint - post-2013 under the CAP. That has introduced uncertainty for the farmer. The natural handicaps associated with hill farming add substantially to the cost of production. The less-favoured areas compensatory allowance (LFACA) is there to compensate for that. It helps to create a more level playing field and, in most cases, is a lifeline for hill farmers.

"I was re-assured by the Minister's response to these 'subsidy' concerns in which she re-affirmed her continuing commitment to fight to ensure the needs of our hill farmers continue to be met in the pending CAP reforms and her commitment that 'tailored and flexible support' will continue to be provided from her Department in terms of income support to environmental payments, education, training and technology transfer, as well as wider support for the farm family.