AGRICULTURE Minister Michelle O’Neill this afternoon (Friday 29 March) announced that the Executive had responded positively to her call for financial assistance for farmers in the areas worst affected by the snow storm last weekend.
She indicated her Department would meet the cost to farmers of collection and disposal of fallen animals and said that she plans to bring forward to the Executive proposals for a linked hardship payment scheme to mitigate farmer losses arising from the snow storm.
Commenting after the crunch Executive meeting Minister O’Neill said: “There is potential for environmental impact, disease risks and reputational damage associated with dead animals not being collected and disposed of without delay which is why funding for the collection and disposal of fallen animals is an urgent need. As the thaw comes, I would encourage farmers to act quickly and get dead animals to collection points and arrange for their collection and professional disposal.
“Arrangements have been put in place for the costs of collection and disposal by approved renderers to be met directly by the Department for the period 2 April to the 15 April, which could be extended depending on the rate of thaw. Farmers should arrange for collection and disposal of fallen stock within these dates directly with the renderers as usual – they should not contact DARD.”
The Minister added: “These exceptional livestock losses come at a time when farmers are already facing severe difficulties in the current financial climate. It is clear from the discussions I have had with many of the affected farmers that financial assistance is essential, and I now plan to bring further proposals to the Executive on a hardship payment scheme that will help with the financial burden on these farmers. I would hope that this will be in place
“The scheme will be linked to loss of livestock, based on evidence of their correct disposal. Farmers should therefore retain all documentation, at individual farm level, which will be needed to apply for hardship payments. Details of how to apply for hardship payment will be publicised in early April.
“To date this week my Department has arranged for the purchase and delivery of emergency animal feedstuffs, where necessary by air, to dozens of farms. My staff from the Rivers Agency, Forest Service and CAFRE have been on the ground every day providing much needed assistance and support to those affected and this immediate support will continue over the days ahead. The DARD Helpline will continue to be manned over the weekend and next week.
“I am sure that today’s Executive approval of my proposals for funding for collection and disposal of fallen animals and hardship will be very welcome for our local farming industry,” the Minister added.