Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has secured £5.1million of EU funding for the north’s dairy farmers to help with the current crisis in the dairy sector.
Following the EU Commission’s decision to allocate an aid package worth £26million to this Member State, the Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced the following allocations; north of Ireland – £5.1million, England – £15.5million, Wales – £3.2million and Scotland – £2.3million.
The decision to allocate nearly 20% of the Member State’s aid package to the north comes after Minister O’Neill highlighted, both in London and in Brussels, the unique and difficult circumstances facing the industry here.
Minister O’Neill said: “In my meetings with Commissioner Hogan and DEFRA Secretary Liz Truss, I have been strenuously pushing for immediate support for our hard-pressed farmers. I made a strong case for differentiated aid for the north given the drastic price reductions here compared with Britain and as a result I have secured a better deal for our farmers, in that they will share a total aid package worth £5.1million, almost a fifth of the Member State allocation.”
The Minister went on to say: “Throughout my engagement with DEFRA and the Commission I insisted that they recognise that our dairy industry is facing a unique and extreme set of circumstances. I welcome the fact that they both have listened and accepted this. The north’s allocation is larger as a result. The price falls in the dairy sector are deeper and longer than we have seen in any other farming sector, with the milk price 34% lower in July this year than in 2014, and 39% below prices in 2013.”
The money will be paid out to dairy farmers across the north of Ireland.
She added: “My immediate focus is to ensure this money reaches our dairy farmers who are most in need without delay. I also want to ensure that there is no knock-on impact on issuing Basic Payments to all farmers here. I recognise the challenges being faced across the wider farming sector in the north and I am committed to making Direct Payments to as many farmers as possible in December 2015.”
Recognising the pressures on other sectors in the farming industry, Minister O’Neill concluded: “I’m aware that other sectors of our farming community are also facing difficult times and I will continue to work with all the farming sectors and stakeholders to support greater fairness, transparency and communication in the supply chain and to support a sustainable and profitable agri-food industry in the longer term.”