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O’Neill Updates Assembly on Response to Adverse Weather
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AGRICULTURE Minister Michelle O’Neill said today  (Tuesday 9 April) that work is continuing to help those farmers who suffered losses as a result of the recent snow storm.

The Minister was speaking as she updated the Assembly on her Department’s response to the severe weather event which took place over the weekend of 22 and 24 March.dn_screen

The Minister said: “The collection and disposal scheme opened on 2 April and collection of fallen stock has commenced to those farmers considered eligible whether part of the published postcodes or otherwise. As of 4pm yesterday, carcases had been collected from 440 farms. A total of 8,153 sheep had been collected of which 6,246 were lambs. Additionally 240 cattle were collected. The vast majority of calls received from farmers to date, including a number from around the Sperrins and other affected areas in the west, have been confirmed into the scheme on the basis of the information provided. In fact 140 applications have been approved to date and only 10 have not been accepted.

“Due to the slower expected thaw in some higher ground, I have decided to extend the collection period up until Friday 19 April. I would encourage those farmers who need animals collected to contact the DARD helpline on 0300 200 7852.”

Northern Ireland Agriculture MInister Minister Michele O'Neill has updated the Assembly on the weather crisis hitting farmers.

Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Minister Michele O’Neill has updated the Assembly on the effects of the  weather crisis hitting farmers.

The Minister added that the second element of the hardship measures will seek to mitigate the costs of livestock losses that have been sustained by farmers arising from the snow storm. She explained: “The hardship scheme will be specifically for livestock losses and linked to the collection and disposal scheme. It will be framed in light of the information gathered on the extent and nature of losses which we will build as farmers have stock removed and disposed of by the approved renderers. The details of the scheme and how to apply will be made public as soon as possible.”

For those farmers who lost livestock due to the snow storm, Minister O’Neill said her Department will be flexible for those making a claim under the Less Favoured Area Compensatory Allowance (LFACA) 2014 scheme year. She said:“These claims are made on the 2013 Single Application Form and require the farmer to have the appropriate stocking density between 1 April and 31 October 2013.

“If any farmer cannot meet this required stocking density from 1 April as a result of force majeure associated with snow conditions, they need to write and tell the Department at the earliest opportunity that this is the case. The Department will accept letters up to but not beyond 15 May, which is the deadline for Single Application Forms (SAF) to be submitted.

“If farmers neglect to do this and as a result do not obtain LFACA payment in 2014, it will then in all probability be too late to claim under force majeure provisions. Therefore, it is vital for farmers to take action on this matter now and write to the Department explaining why their stocking density has fallen below the required level.”

The Minister added that due to farmer cash flow demands arising from this crisis and restocking, that she will be inviting representatives of the National Sheep Association, the UFU and NIAPA to a meeting in the coming week to discuss the way forward.

“In the last two weeks I have visited farms in the Glens of Antrim, South Down and the Sperrins and have witnessed first-hand the problems faced by farmers. I would like to acknowledge the true community spirit demonstrated in these areas, as farmers and the wider Agri- Food Industry worked together to procure and deliver much needed fodder to affected farms. I commend the work of local farmers and volunteers who have battled the worst of the elements to assist their neighbours.

“I and my department will continue to do all that we can to ensure that those affected continue to receive the support and assistance that this weather incident has required.”