RHI: Whole new swathe of claimants facing massive cuts

A veteran Moy Park farmer has told of his dismay that after being encouraged by the company and Stormont to enter the 20-year subsidy he is now facing vast cuts.

Monday, 11th March 2019, 6:41 pm
Updated Monday, 11th March 2019, 7:45 pm
RHI boilers facilitated the expansion plans of poultry processor Moy Park  but now many of its farmers face huge loan repayments and slashed RHI money

The man, whose identity is known to the News Letter but who did not want to be named, is one of a whole new swathe of claimants who are having their payments slashed.

The farmer said that he had been urged by the giant poultry processor to join the scheme before it was finally shut in February 2015.

By that stage, the ‘burn to earn’ tariffs had been ended three months earlier. However, the total bill for the scheme was continuing to mount and so the DUP and Sinn Fein brought forward proposals for it to be closed.

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At that point, both civil servants and the DUP minister Jonathan Bell told the Assembly that the scheme had been a “success”.

Even when the scandal erupted publicly in December 2016 to the extent that it toppled Stormont the following month, civil servants and politicians continued to tell the public that the scheme had been ‘fixed’ in November 2015 and that those who entered after that date were not being overcompensated.

However, now Stormont’s Department for the Economy has said that was wrong and that in fact the scheme was too generous even at that point.

Legislation which last week was unanimously rushed through the Commons in a single day and which will now come before the Lords, will see those who entered the scheme after cost controls face the first retrospective cut to their payments.

The farmer who contacted the News Letter said that the maximum payment for the 199kw boilers common after cost controls would now collapse from about £19,000 a year to just over £3,000.

The man, who produces the eggs which hatch into Moy Park chickens grown for meat, said he was now going to be at a big disadvantage to Moy Park’s other farms in England – many of which will continue to receive payments of about £20,000 a year for 20 years.

“The whole thing doesn’t stack up,” he said, adding that he had repayments of about £11,000 a year for the loans he took out to install the single 199kw boiler.

“I haven’t heard from my bank yet, but it will be on to see what’s happening. There will be a massive shortfall.

“Most guys with 199kw boilers are still owing seven or eight years of loan repayments to the bank. I have still seven and a half years to pay off.”

The man said that his houses had not been heated before February 2016 but that Moy Park encouraged him to install biomass boilers and as a result there had been an improvement in bird welfare and profitability. “It was Moy Park that advised us to do it, although it was entirely our decision about how to structure the loan,” he said.

He said that people in his position were ”pretty angry that we’ve all been painted with one brush”.

The News Letter asked Moy Park for its view on the scale of the RHI cuts and whether it accepted that it had a duty of care to the farmers who it urged to enter the scheme. In response the company said that it was “taken aback by the extent of the subsidy cut” and was “analysing the information available and will be meeting with our independent growers to assess the impact that this will have on the industry”.