Mid Ulster badly hit by farm payments delay - Kearney

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Mid Ulster is one of the areas badly affected by the delays to single farms payments, it has been claimed.

SDLP Magherafelt Councillor Martin Kearney has secured cross-party support for his first motion at a recent meeting of Magherafelt District Council.

At his request, councillors agreed unanimously to seek an assurance from the Department of Agriculture (DARD) that all outstanding Single Farm Payments would be processed as a matter of urgency. It was also agreed DARD should seek assurances from the EU that all Farm Businesses under inspection should be given three months’ notice in writing in future years.

Speaking afterwards Cllr Kearney emphasised the importance of farming and farming families in both the Magherafelt and Mid-Ulster areas.

He said: “With over 1,200 farms in the Magherafelt Council Area, the vast majority located in Less Favoured Areas, with three quarters of less than 30 acres in size, and a workforce of over 1,500 in size, these annual payments are of the utmost importance for farm viability. 50% of the gross annual farm income is generated via this one-off annual Single Farm Payment.

“The Valley Ward of Magherafelt Council, where I live, has been badly affected by recent delays in processing the payments. Many farmers in the greater Clady area, and as far south as Kilrea, have contacted our Maghera and Cookstown offices with their concerns. As a small farmer myself, I share their anger and frustration at these delays.

“Withholding these payments is having a detrimental effect, not only for local farmers and their families but the countless businesses that depend on them.

“There is also a clear mismatch between the remote sensing or aerial mapping scheme used by the Department and its current maps. This remote sensing is often carried out using drones without the farmer’s permission or knowledge and the problems with this type of technology seem to be increasing.

“We need to stand up for our farming families. This is not the way to promote our farming industry and I welcome the unanimous support and concern shown by Magherafelt Councillors for farmers at this difficult time.”