Sinn Féin Councillor Oonagh Magennis, has said that small farmers must have their voices heard as Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots brings forward plans for a future agriculture policy.
The Slieve Gullion Councillor said:
“Farmers have been waiting anxiously to find out what policies the Minister plans to put in place in the wake of Brexit and the loss of EU funding.
“One of Minister Poots’ proposals is to increase the minimum claim size from the current 3 hectares (7.4 acres) to 10 hectares (24.7 acres). If implemented, would exclude thousands of small farmers, putting many of them out of business.
“Such proposals are bad news for up to 5000 small farms which would not be eligible for the proposed area based Resilience Payment which is the successor to the Single Farm Payment.
“Not only would this be devastating for the businesses impacted and the local economy but in most cases the only option to secure planning permission in rural areas is access to an active farm business number.
“If implemented, this decision would have a severe impact on young families wanting to set up home in the country with the added impact of depopulation on schools, shops, sport clubs and other local services
‘’Sinn Féin want to ensure that the voices of farmers and rural communities are not only heard but that they are listened to and reflected in any new proposals coming from the Department of Agriculture. We are currently preparing a robust response to this consultation.
“I am also extremely disappointed that Minister Poots did not agree to a request from my party colleague, Declan McAleer, for an extension to the consultation period. I believe that 6-weeks is an insufficient time to give this policy full consideration, particularly given that it was launched days before Christmas when people were pre-occupied with the festive season.
“I would encourage all those farmers and rural communities that are likely to be impacted to make a submission to the Departments consultation and challenge these unfair and short-sighted proposals before the 15th of February deadline.”
· The consultation document can be accessed on the DAERA website using the link below: