EU aid package must benefit all livestock sectors – UFU

UFU president Barclay Bell
UFU president Barclay Bell

Agriculture minister, Michelle McIlveen must ensure funding from the EU Exceptional Adjustment Aid scheme benefits all livestock producers the Ulster Farmers’ Union has claimed.

Speaking after a meeting with DAERA officials, UFU president Barclay Bell said it was important that the estimated £4.5 million of funding was used strategically and to maximum benefit for farmers and the industry as a whole.

“We outlined a wide and varied range of options but our members believe the focus should be on supporting animal health measures across all livestock sectors. We are looking at the bigger picture and believe the aid package should be implemented to provide genuine, lasting benefits to the industry. Animal health is a significant and often costly problem on farms, and while the funds are very limited, this is an opportunity to help farmers tackle some of the issues,” said Mr Bell.

While there is the option for national governments to top-up the aid package from the EU, Mr Bell said the Union has already been told that this is unlikely to happen. “Ideally, the EU money would be match funded and we have raised this previously in the meetings with both the Minister and her officials. However we are realistic about the current economic climate and the financial pressures at Stormont. Our main focus is to maximise Northern Ireland’s share of the UK national envelope. This is critical if we are to have a well-funded scheme that can deliver a lasting legacy for farmers.”

Mr Bell also welcomed the further detail released in relation to the EU voluntary milk reduction scheme element of this wider aid package and encouraged dairy farmers to find out more and to consider the scheme if it suited their business but stressed there was a very short application window involved.