Taskforce set up to help Northern Ireland farmers

Northern Ireland agriculture minister Michelle O’Neill has set up a taskforce to support farmers affected by the continuing poor weather.


The minister has tasked her officials to work with industry stakeholders to review the situation following 18 months of wet weather, which has impacted on grazing conditions for livestock.


“We are currently experiencing wet, cool weather, which has had a significant negative impact on grazing conditions for livestock,” she said.


The poor weather and late spring has contributed to a sharp rise in fodder costs, she added.


“My officials met industry stakeholders today (Wednesday) and reported back to me. I will be bringing to the executive my assessment of the difficulties facing the industry, and seeking support,” said Mrs O’Neill.


“I have also decided to set up a taskforce of the interested parties to look at what we can do immediately and to mitigate future problems.”


“The banks are making credit available, and I would particularly commend the initiative by the Ulster Bank, which has made up to £10m of additional funding available.”
Michelle O’Neill

Advisers will offer a range of services, including using their local knowledge to put farmers without fodder in contact with sources of supply.


The Sinn Fein minister said there were “many good things already happening”.


“The feed companies have available forage replacement rations. There are farmers assisting neighbours whose supplies of fodder are running low,” she explained.


“The banks are making credit available, and I would particularly commend the initiative by the Ulster Bank, which has made up to £10m of additional funding available.”


Mrs O’Neill has also tasked College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) advisers and veterinary staff to prioritise their work to advise and assist farmers who are currently experiencing difficulties on their farms.


Department officials will continue to monitor the situation and bring information to the taskforce, she said.


“I have asked to be regularly updated, and that the taskforce brings forward recommendations to me by the end of May,” she added.


The minister is due to discuss the taskforce and £5m hardship scheme, set up specifically to help farmers who suffered losses in the snow crisis, at a Stormont committee meeting on Thursday (16 May).


Around 44,000 farm animals died in the recent snowstorms in Northern Ireland.


Farmers in Northern Ireland who are experiencing significant difficulties should contact the DARD Helpline on 0300 200 7843.


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