BYGONE DAYS: Minister in visit to flood hit farmers in province

Farm Minister Michelle Gildernew had seen for herself the issues around the crop yields at farms affected by recent flooding in Northern Ireland, reported Farming Life during this week in 2008.

Saturday, 4th September 2021, 11:00 am
DARD Minister Michelle Gidernew surveys the effects of flooding on the farm of John Sloane near Lisburn in August 2008. Picture: Darryl Mooney/Mooney Media/Farming Life archives
DARD Minister Michelle Gidernew surveys the effects of flooding on the farm of John Sloane near Lisburn in August 2008. Picture: Darryl Mooney/Mooney Media/Farming Life archives

During her visits to local farms the minister said: “Widespread flooding has caused great heartache and disruption to our farmers in recent days, and I want to reassure them that I am doing everything I can do to help.

“I have tasked my officials to carry out an assessment of the difficulties facing farmers. I have also met with the Ulster Farmers’ Union to gain their appreciation of whether the flooding has any long term impact on the industry.

“I would intend to make my assessment available to my Executive colleagues, so that we can jointly consider the way forward.”

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UFU president Graham Furey pictured in August 2008 with Co Down potato grower Robert Magowan. Mr Magowan’s potato crop was washed away in flash flooding

The minister added: “In the meantime, I would encourage farmers whose homes have been flooded to avail of the emergency assistance from the Executive.

“This is intended to provide immediate practical relief, and to lift some of the worry which this extreme weather event has put on local householders.”

Meanwhile, DUP South Down MLA Jim Wells has supported calls for financial aid for South Down farmers who lost crops following the floods.

“During this week I have been contacted by many farmers in the Rathfriland, Hilltown and Kilcoo area who have lost crops during the extremely heavy rain,” Mr Wells told Farming Life.

He continued: “On Tuesday I was shown a field on potatoes and barley which had been totally destroyed and heard calls for an aid package to compensate those who have lost so much.

“As vice chairman of the Assembly’s Regional Development Committee I attended a special meeting at Stormont on the same day to learn what the agencies responsible for flooding had learnt from the chaotic scenes we witnessed throughout the east and south of the province on Saturday. During this meeting the committee received some very significant information from the Rivers Agency. Katesbridge received 52mm of rain last Saturday which was the largest amount to fall in the area on any day in August since records began.

“A total of 177mm has fallen in this part of South Down since the end of July which is 208% above average.

“In 2007 a similar situation prevailed in England and Westminster successfully applied for £110 million to aid to compensate farmers who had lost a significant proportion of their income.

“The flooding experienced in Northern Ireland last Saturday was as serious as that evident in England in the summer of 2007 and the Executive must immediately lobby the Treasury to make an application to Brussels for aid from the Solidarity Fund.”

UFU president Graham Furey and his senior officials also met with the NI Farm Minister.

Mr Furey said that the meeting had been “a constructive discussion, exploring the various options available” to assist farmers who had lost livestock and crops after the unprecedented rainfall the previous weekend.

He told Farming Life: “We continue to receive reports of incidents where farmers have lost crops or where livestock drowned in flash flooding. Some farm businesses have been very badly affected and we are exploring every possible means of getting assistance to those farmers. The Department of Agriculture have undertaken to do a ‘stock take’ assessment of the losses in the industry over the next week. The worst affected farms will have incurred serious financial losses and they must be assisted.”