Farmer Focus Livestock: Victor Chestnutt queues for grant

As I write this article I, along with about 2000 other farmers in Northern Ireland, are recovering from spending a night outdoors. I queued for 20 hours to deliver our form for the Farm Modernisation Scheme, run under the rural development programme.

This scheme was under-funded, with only one in six of the farmers applying able to claim. The department decided to offer this scheme on a first-come, first-served basis, hence the queuing. Thankfully, the weather on the night was kind, although I now have more sympathy for the cows lying on slats, as the hard ground got quite cold at night.

While this would be a useful scheme for some itemised products, enabling farmers to claim 40% of the cost, the fact it was so under-funded made for the mayhem of queuing. But in Coleraine, my local office, farmers conducted themselves honourably, creating their own register of position in the queue. But we were still all frustrated about having to spend valuable time away from our farm businesses.

A couple of events were amusing. One was when a chap joined the queue and after a short while asked if this was the dole queue, as he was there to pick it up. The other was a lady who had given up her mattress and pillow to try to get a grant to get mattresses and poly pillows for her cows. Perhaps voluntary modulation to fund rural development should be scrapped altogether.

Our slurry tanks are being emptied and slurry put on to our fields using a dribble bar and umbilical system. I hope the weather stays kind for the next few days and that we will get some return on our expenditure on tanks and save on expensive fertiliser costs later on.

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