Reduced RHI tariffs ‘scapegoating’ farmers over others’ failings

Ulster Farmers Union chief executive Wesley Aston
Ulster Farmers Union chief executive Wesley Aston

Farmers are being made “scapegoats for the failures of others” over the botched RHI scheme, the Ulster Farmers’ Union has said.

The UFU said the decision to extend the reduced RHI tariff rates for a further 12 months is unfair to the farmers who did not create the current crisis.

UFU chief executive Wesley Aston said the Department of Economy (DfE) officials need to launch a promised consultation on more sustainable long-term tariffs, and said UFU concerns have been raised by confirmation that legislation to extend the reduced tariffs has already been drafted.

“This has already put a number of farm businesses, particularly in the poultry sector, under severe financial pressure,” he said.

“We have heard reports of farmers having to sell land, extend overdrafts or take out additional loans just to remain in business. Banks have been understanding, but there is no guarantee this will continue.

“The situation is serious and not sustainable. By extending reduced tariffs the government is jeopardising the viability of many businesses and the mental and physical health of farmers.”

Mr Aston said farmers made significant investments in the RHI scheme, and have ongoing costs for maintenance and fuel, and added: “Bills still need to be paid. These farmers now have to find at least £1,000 a boiler extra per month to remain in business.

“Compounding this financial pressure is the fact that the cost of wood pellets has increased by 20% in recent months.

“Farmers didn’t design the scheme, yet they are paying the price for failures of civil servants. This is unacceptable.”