Dungannon farmers to receive cash boost because of bad weather

DUNGANNON farmers are set to enjoy an economic windfall after the Agriculture Minister pledged to support them following this year’s bad weather.

Minister Michele O’Neill announced the cash boost in response to the growing financial pressures experienced by farmers such as rising production costs and feed prices.

The increase means that Dungannon farmers are in line to receive a proportion of some £15million in grants, in addition to their annual European Union payments which last year amounted to £2.3million.

Last year, the highest payment to a recipient in the Dungannon District was £1.2 million, while a further six agricultural businesses received payments worth more than £100,000.

There were just under 50 recipients of the grants, with one Dungannon mushroom company receiving £304,000, Three Aughnacloy farmers in total were paid just over £340,000 in subsidies.

Another Dungannon farmer received £137,000 in funding, with twenty of the recipients receiving more than £10,000.

The additional grant money had previously been made available for rural development schemes but is now being diverted after months of bad weather have heaped financial difficulties on farmers.

Minister O’Neill said: “I have great sympathy with farmers as they struggle with rising production costs and problems stemming from difficult weather conditions. That is why I have taken direct action to ensure that farmers will receive more money in their Single Farm Payment in 2013.

“The European Commission has made provision for voluntary modulation to continue for another year in the context of the ongoing discussions on CAP Reform. They have said that this money, which is deducted from Single Farm Payment, can be used in the new round of Rural Development Programmes.

“Other administrations in Britain will make use of this provision again. However, given the very real challenges facing our farmers I have decided not to continue to apply voluntary modulation next year. This will provide some much needed additional income for farmers in their 2013 SFP payments and will help to stimulate the rural communities in which farmers live and spend their money.”

Speaking about transparency in the food chain and growing the sector during the debate, the minister said: “I believe that farmers should get a fair price for their produce and that everyone in the food supply chain should share in the risks, costs and rewards. Each link in the supply chain is dependent on all of the other links. Whilst issues affecting competition are a reserved matter and therefore outside of my remit, I am committed to lending my support to address any unfairness in the food supply chain.

“I welcome the forthcoming introduction of the Grocery Adjudicator Bill and have written to the Minister of Business, Innovation and Skills in Westminster, emphasising the need for early introduction of an Adjudicator with real power.

“I am also encouraged that stakeholders are engaging positively with the recently established Agri-food Strategy Board, as it considers a longer term strategy for growth of the industry.”

The minister concluded: “Whilst many of the issues currently affecting farmers are beyond our control, such as pricing and fluctuating global markets, my Department will continue to offer advice and assistance to the sector in these difficult times to ensure they are operating in the most efficient and cost-effective way they can. My department will also continue to provide wider support to farmers through their local CAFRE Development Adviser and the Rural Development Programme.

“I hope my announcement on modulation shows that where I can act to support the farming community, I will.”