A Northern Ireland view: Ulster Farmers’ Union President Harry Sinclair has commented on the Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill’s publication of the Fodder Taskforce Action Plan.
“The UFU have been actively involved in the Fodder taskforce meetings since its establishment to address the immediate and longer term issues arising from the very poor growing conditions that we have experienced over the past number of years that came to a head this spring.
At these meetings the Union put forward a number of measures that could be put in place by DARD and the industry to avoid another fodder crisis. The measures included: the earlier release of Single Farm Payments; advice and help to be offered to farmers so that they could effectively plan their feeding programme for the winter ahead; banks to take a more pragmatic approach with lending and repayments; the introduction of approved finishing units for cattle from TB restricted herds; an extension of the present chemical fertiliser spreading period and also funding for grassland improvement.
“While a number of our proposals are included within the Fodder Taskforce Action Plan, we are disappointed that so far there has been little real progress on delivering tangible help for farmers on the ground. In particular we are concerned that DARD are still not in a position to issue earlier part payments of Single Farm Payment, despite this being common practice across many other member states and regions. We will therefore be pressing DARD to ensure that they significantly improve on the percentage of Single Farm Payments which are issued in December.”
Harry concluded: “Thankfully since the taskforce was established weather conditions have improved in Northern Ireland but it is still imperative that farmers plan ahead for this coming winter and avail of the advice and help that is currently available. The UFU will continue to participate in future Fodder Taskforce meetings and will be putting pressure on DARD to make sure that the Fodder Taskforce Action Plan is delivered and built upon.”