More than 150 farmers from all over the Mid-Antrim area and beyond attended a meeting in Glarryford Young Farmers Hall to discuss the difficulties they are having with Single Farm Payments.
The meeting was hosted by Ulster Unionist politicians Robin Swann MLA and agricultural spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson MLA and addressed by DARD officials Dr Richard Crowe, Head of Policy and Mervyn Johnston.
Following the meeting, Mr. Swann said: “In the last few weeks, this issue has made up a high proportion of calls to my constituency office. I was amazed at the large crowd that turned out for our meeting; it shows that this issue is putting many farmers, their families, local merchants and suppliers under extreme financial pressure.”
“The lack of information has compounded these difficulties, and this frustration with the Department’s processes was well echoed by many in the hall, and there are a number of issues that the Department must still address.”
“The farmers in the Bann Valley area didn’t even receive a letter from the Department to make them aware that they were part of a pilot. Sadly, there will be more pilots to come this year and at the meeting I demanded that DARD write to the farmers who are in the areas selected for remote sensing this year to at least make them aware that they could be affected.
“The reason for this problem is that a large part of the Bann Valley area was used by the Department as a remote sensing or aerial mapping pilot scheme.
“This is the second year of aerial photography/remote sensing and the problems seem to increase rather than get sorted, so it is essential that they are sorted before next year, I have been informed that Northern Ireland is now divided into just under 300 areas and a number of these will be selected at random each year for this type of inspection. So until these issues are sorted no farmer, farming organisation or political representative should rest easy until this matter is solved successfully,” said Mr Swann
Joanne Dobson commented afterwards : “We will bring these matters directly to the Minister and raise at the Agriculture Committee at Stormont.”