The DUP is calling on Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill to ensure that her department is in a position to seek approval from the EU Commission for advance payments of the 2013 Single Farm Payment.
The party’s call comes in advance of an Agriculture Committee motion in the Assembly which is demanding that the minister take action to assist farmers.
DUP Agriculture Spokesman Paul Frew said: “It is long past time for the Agriculture Minister to step up to the plate and show leadership and action on behalf of the agricultural industry.
“The minister’s party has held the Agriculture portfolio since devolution was restored in 2007 and they always make a great claim about cross-border co-operation.
However, it was back in 2007 that the Republic of Ireland first made an application to the European Commission seeking permission to make advance payments to farmers of their Single Farm Payment.
Michelle O’Neill should now ensure as a matter of urgency that she is in a position to make a similar application to the Commission so that local farmers might have some degree of certainty around the cashflow for their business.”
DUP Agriculture Committee member William Irwin added: “Presently there is the outrageous situation where some farmers are waiting possibly more than nine months for their Single Farm Payment to be processed.
When those payments are finally made those months of delay can have been caused because of a query around as little as £20 or £30.
These payments are often not for insignificant amounts of money and are vital to the effective running of many farm businesses.
“It simply isn’t acceptable that farmers are denied these payments for months on end when banks are stepping up the pressure on many farmers and renegotiating previously agreed lines of credit.
DARD have complained for years now that they are not in a position to apply to the European Commission for these kind of advance payments, but those excuses cannot continue to be justified forever.
The minister must now step forward and put the necessary arrangements in place so that farmers could receive advance payments for next year’s SFP,” added Mr Irwin.
“Whilst there is evidence that inspectors are out on the ground much earlier this year and that the department may better ready to process payments there still is not the level of certainty for many farmers to allow them to plan the finances of their business.
We will look forward in this debate to hearing whether the minister will now do more than talk and hide behind excuses, or will she use this opportunity in the Assembly to take concrete action which would be of real benefit to farmers on the ground.”
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