O’Neill Confirms Support for Farmers Through Difficult Times
Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill today (23 May) affirmed her support for farmers whose incomes have been impacted by bad weather and high feed costs.
Responding to an Assembly motion on the fall in farm incomes, the Minister said: “There are a number of reasons for the fall in farm income in 2012. Most notably the cost of feed rose by £82million. In addition, production fell, because of the poor weather conditions, in a number of sectors including dairying, cereals and most field crops. There was also a weakening of the Euro against Sterling which reduced the amount of SFP by around £22million. These were the main factors and unfortunately they are factors very much out of our control. However, there are actions that can and have been taken to mitigate impacts and to build a stronger more resilient industry.”
The Minister continued: “I have taken a number of steps to try to ease the cash-flow problems that many farmers are experiencing. These have included making earlier payments on some subsidies and with the support of the Assembly establishing a hardship scheme for those significantly affected by the snow storm at the end of March.
“I recognise there are continuing problems for our farmers due to the poor growing conditions last year, a prolonged winter and poor grass growth as a result of a late spring. This has left many farmers suffering a significant fodder shortage. Consequently, I have secured £1million from the Executive to help defray the transport costs of bringing feed in from overseas. My Officials and I will continue to work closely with the industry as we work our way through the current difficulties facing the sector.”
“We also need to look to the longer term. The growth in world population means demand for food will be increasing. I want to help the industry position itself to take advantage of these opportunities. We need to build an industry that is not only competitive, but also more resilient in the face of market volatility and other income shocks. I am examining the proposals of the Agri-food Strategy Board and I will be seeking to work with the Board, industry as whole and with the support of the Assembly to set an agenda for growth and contribute to the building of an industry that is outward looking, self-reliant, sustainable and profitable,” added Minister O’Neill.