The North Antrim DUP assemblyman who heads Stormont’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee claims many farmers could face crippling costs because of delays to the ‘single farm payment.’
Paul Frew said he has been receiving calls from farmers who have been waiting patiently for their payment this month only to be told that they will not be receiving them now due to the fact that their land was selected for an inspection.
Frew explains “ When farmers are told that their land has been selected for inspection they automatically know that it could be some months after December before receiving payment .They would have been told in advance and inspectors would have been on site to do the work .We now have a scenario where by the Department use remote sensing which means they can inspect a farmers land from the air .
“This is a welcome step because it quickens up the inspection process and DARD have moved from doing 240 last year to just over 1100 this year. The problem is that farmers have been unaware that their farms were inspected through remote sensing because the department hasn’t communicated with them.
“They then expect their payment as usual to keep their business operating and their banks and suppliers happy. If they were expecting this and now find themselves weeks or maybe months away from this payment it could put tremendous pressure on their finances and cash flow creating problems for what could be already under pressure businesses. It could also lead to welfare issues both for the farmer and his livestock .
“I have asked the Minister to clarify the situation and to clear up the confusion. When farmers ring up their local DARD office they are being told that Orchard house should have notified them but When they ring Orchard house they are told that the local DARD office should have notified them!
“Yet again question marks remain on DARD process. When will the Minister Clarify the situation ? Why were these farmers not notified well in advance that they were subjected to an inspection? Why were they not given a chance to prepare for a wait? And why are they being left hanging awaiting a payment now that is still months away?”