Rogers addresses Assembly over bad weather response
South Down SDLP MLA Seán Rogers has questioned both the Farming and Roads Ministers in respect of their responses to the recent atrocious weather conditions.
Rogers said, “I have visited a number of farms in the Kilcoo/Cabra area and agree that the last three weeks have been a very dark, dark time for many of these farmers. Lambing time is the highlight of the year for sheep farmers however this is definitely not the case this year.
“Stock, sheds and the total livelihoods of many farmers have been destroyed. Whilst I welcome the £5m funding package, it doesn’t in anyway provide sufficient funding for the hard hit farming industry. The snow may be disappearing, but the real level of hardship is only now revealing itself.
“Breeding flocks have been decimated, sheds have been destroyed, insurance has proved to be worthless in some cases and farmers have run out of feed. However, where are DARD staff?
Rogers continued, “A telephone helpline is useful as a crises develops, but now farmers need to have DARD officials visiting their farms to ascertain the real damage – not just the material damage but also the long term effects on the farmers’ livelihoods.
“I am calling on the Minister for Agriculture to bring forward a comprehensive compensation package without delay. Such a scheme needs to be immediate to ensure the farmers can buy feed, replace their sheds, replace breeding stock and receive compensation for stock that have perished. It is imperative that this happens now.”
Rogers went on to question the Minister for Regional Development who has responsibility for roads across the North. “The response from the Department for Regional Development just hasn’t been good enough – rural communities have been left isolated for days and farmers haven’t been able to get to their isolated farms to tend to their livestock.
He added, “While I acknowledge that DRD cannot keep every road open, a backup scheme needs to be in place to subcontract the clearing of roads to farmers and contractors with suitable equipment.”
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