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Farmers must wait year for extra £15 million

Published: 11 Oct 2012 13:000 comments

The Agriculture Minister, Michele O'Neill responded to the Assembly's motion on the crisis in the farming industry by reducing the modulation on next year's Single Farm Payment.

Combining spring wheat at Lisgoole this week.

By making £15 million available to farmers across Northern Ireland, the Minister said she was supporting farmers affected by rising production costs and feed prices, having sympathy with farmers as they struggled with problems that also included the poor weather conditions this year.

Payments being made this December for the year 2012 will have the existing rate of modulation applied (9% for individual payment amounts up to €5,000 and 14% for amounts above €5,000) but for 2013, the modulation rate will be zero for amounts up to 5,000 euro and 10 per cent for amounts between 5,000 euro and 300,000 euro with 14 per cent for amounts over 300,000 euros.

The Assembly passed the motion debated on Monday, "That this Assembly notes with concern the current crisis in farming caused by the failure of the food supply chain to react to rising production costs and feed prices in particular; further notes the lack of transparency within the food supply chain and the existence of a very significant differential between Northern Ireland, Great Britain and Republic of Ireland producer prices; and calls on the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to acknowledge the crisis and to bring forward initiatives to alleviate the short-term financial pressures on farmers."

Proposing the motion, Paul Frew, Chairman of the Agriculture Committee referred to rising production costs such as soya meal increasing by 66 per cent in the last eight months and fertiliser increasing by 223 per cent over the last 100 years. Other factors including rising fuel and feed prices, issues in the supply chain and the impact of the bad weather, the wettest in 100 years. He and Deputy Chairman, Joe Byrne said the combination of issues resulted in financial pressures on farmers.

Other speakers highlighted the gap in beef producer prices between NI and the mainland of up to £200 per head.

The Minister acknowledged this difference, quoting; "There is a difference of 34·2p per kilogram for beef, 46·11p per kilogram for sheep and 10·67p per kilogram for pigs."

While the agri-food industry was leading the way during a depressed economy, he warned that it could be in danger of collapse if farmers are no longer to continue to produce.

Locally, Erne East Councillor, Sheamus Greene welcomed the decision by Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill to divert more money into the Single Farm Payment scheme.

He said, "The decision to put an additional £15 million towards the Single Farm Payment scheme is great news for both the farmers and the rural community in general. This year has been an extremely difficult year for farmers, with some cattle having to be housed all summer particularly in mountain areas, where the land is extremely wet. Many farmers face financial difficulties due to the increasing price of feed and silage and a lot of farmers haven't been able to make as much silage themselves as normal, due to the severity of the weather. Grain farmers also have had a difficult year with the amount of rain destroying crops or making them impossible to harvest.

The Minister also highlighted fodder workshops being launched by CAFRE to assist farmers with winter feeding regimes this winter.

An illustration of the difficulties facing some sectors of the farming community was given this week by agricultural contractor, Barry Read. After combining spring wheat for Derek Thornton at Lisgoole last weekend, he said he was surprised at the good yield despite the lateness of the season. But he pointed to some very poor yields in crops he has harvested this year, particularly winter crops.

He also said harvesting was only made possible because of an investment of £5,000 in low ground pressure tyes on the combine.

He was still undertaking silage cutting this month but the short weather windows presented few opportunities to get much work done.

He recalled how his father, Norman started contracting in the late 1970's and this year was the worst since the.

"It's purely down to the weather," he said, adding that other factors were making things difficult too such as the difficulty for obtaining medium term loans from banks to help tide them over.

The Ulster Farmers' Union this week welcomed the £15 million boost by the Agriculture Minister, as they were opposed to the implementation of voluntary modulation originally.

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