Local political representatives in Mid Ulster have raised concerns over the fair allocation of funding for agriculture and horticulture.
A £25m package was announced last week by the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Edwin Poots, but concern has been raised about where the money will go.
Mid Ulster councillor, and incoming Chair, Cathal Mallaghan, obtained cross-party support at last Thursday’s council meeting to write to the minister about their concerns.
“Last week's announcement of a package worth £25 million for agriculture and horticulture in response to the Covid 19 crisis was welcome news,” he said.
“However, directly following this, Minister Poots made reference to the Dairy and horticulture sectors, and how he intended to direct the bulk of the resources towards these industries.
“We do not dispute the need for help for horticulture or dairy farmers, but there can be no denying that the sector worst affected are the small producers.
“Beef and Sheep producers account for 80% of all farmers in the north, and to think that they will not receive the majority of this fund would be disgraceful.”
MLA for Mid Ulster, Emma Sheerin, echoed Cllr Mallaghan’s comments, saying she has written to Minister Poots communicating the need for proportionate help.
“Small beef and sheep farmers have seen prices plummet at astounding rates since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis; £30/head for sheep and £240/head for cattle,” she said.
“This, combined with the rise in fuel and fodder costs and the closure of local marts, has a massive impact on small farm businesses.
“These small farmers, particularly those working in mountain areas, already have to deal with challenges that aren't experienced in the lowlands.
“With the onset of Brexit and the loss of the ANC payment, these farmers were always going to have a difficult year in 2020, but this unprecedented health crisis has compounded everything.
“I have made it clear to Minister Poots that he needs to create a scheme that is fair, and that the sheep and beef farmers must be considered.”
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