Agriculture minister meets farmers over aid package

The Department of Agriculture published a list of farmers eligible for help that did not include areas in Tyrone and Londonderry

Related Stories

Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill has met farmers in the Sperrin mountains following concerns over the aid package for those affected by recent snowfall.

She said she wanted to reassure them that they will be included in the hardship payments.

The Department of Agriculture published a postcode list of places eligible for help, but it did not cover all areas.

However, the minister said any farmers affected would be included.

Last week, the executive agreed an aid package worth up to £5m to help those who have lost livestock in the recent heavy snowfalls.

The executive will also pay for the collection and disposal of sheep that died in the blizzard.

Ms O'Neill said the postcode list had originally focused on counties Antrim and Down because they had been affected by heavy snowfall in a "widespread manner".

"I want to assure farmers that if they were affected by the snow storm and they are having their animals collected, they will be included in the scheme," she added.

"There will be no different treatment for the farmers in the Sperrins as there will be for the farmers in Down and Antrim."

However, the president of the Ulster Farmers' Union, Harry Sinclair, said farmers have been told few details of the hardship package and they needed clarity.

'Help needed'

"People who are affected know there is supposed to be help coming but when you are in that moment of despair, you need to know what is going to happen now," he said.

"They need help to maintain the stock that remain. A lot of extra feed is needed and most of these farmers, because of their low income from last year, do not have the resources to fund that.

"They are not the type of people who would be able to go and negotiate large bank overdrafts so a lot of them are in a difficult position and need help immediately," said Mr Sinclair.

Frankie McCullagh has a farm on a remote part of Slieve Croob, near Castlewellan, in County Down.

Start Quote

I've lost 30 ewes already, some had to be humanely killed and 20 are still missing”

End Quote Frankie McCullagh Farmer

He said he had been digging dead sheep out of the snow and had to buy extra food for the remaining livestock.

He claimed because of where he lives he will not have to pay for the disposal of the animals, but will not be eligible for hardship payments.

"I'm just outside the post codes DARD have called a priority. My farm reaches the very top of Slieve Croob and I have it just as hard as anyone," he said.

"I've lost 30 ewes already, some had to be humanely killed. Twenty are still missing. Forty lambs died as well and we're still finding more.

"It's not near over when the thaw comes."

BBC Northern Ireland's Ita Dungan filmed the scene at Mr McCullagh's farm.

In a statement, DARD said farmers must have been severely affected by the snow and have fallen livestock collected by approved renderers during the period 2 - 15 April to be eligible for aid.

It added: "While there is a list of 'eligible postcodes, this does not exclude other farmers from other areas who have suffered severe livestock losses as a result of the snow storm.

"We appreciate that there are smaller discrete areas in other locations in the north where farmers have been equally affected by the snow storm."

Farmers who feel they should be eligible, but are not in the published postcode areas, are being urged to ring the DARD helpline 0300 200 7852.

More on This Story

Related Stories

Features & Analysis

  • Baby in boxStrange case

    The remarkable appeal of the Finnish baby boxes

  • WW1 gas mask being demonstratedTrench terror

    Did the soldiers of WW1 have an irrational fear of poison gas?

  • Mitt Romney, speaks at the podium as he concedes the presidency during Mitt Romney's campaign election night event at the Boston Convention 7 November 2012Aura of a loser?

    Mitt Romney looked presidential but could never pull it off

  • A woman holds up a feminist sign.PC virus

    Is liberal speech policing out of control?

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • ReadingBest books

    BBC Culture takes a look at ten books you should read in February


  • A car being driven by Cruise Automation technologyClick Watch

    The tech which could allow any car with an automatic gearbox to become self-driving

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.