Belfast Telegraph

Department aims to get EU payment boost for flood-hit farmers

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has announced that it will attempt to get an EU payment boost for flood-hit farmers in Northern Ireland.

The department has said that it will seek permission from the EU to increase October payments of the CAP from 50% to 70%.

A boost in the payments will be aimed at assisting farmers who lost livestock during flooding earlier this month, and those who were most heavily impacted by damage to their land and property.

The concept of advanced payments under the CAP was introduced in 2016 to deal with difficult trading conditions being experienced by the agricultural industry across Europe.

Sinn Fein's agriculture spokesperson, Declan McAleer MLA, who met with the permanent secretary of the DAERA on Wednesday, said "additional financial and technical support will be needed to address what has become a disaster for those affected."

Mr McAleer attended the meeting with West Tyrone MLA Catherine Kelly and East Londonderry MLA Caoimhe Archibald.

Mr McAleer said: "Whilst the Department is seeking to work flexibly within current schemes, the delegation insisted that this would not be sufficient."

Under European Commission regulations, member states and regions are able to make advanced payments of up to 50% - and the department is seeking to get this increased in light of recent circumstances.

Farmers are also asked to submit applications for force majeure, a payment scheme that assists farm businesses that have seen their land become unexpectedly flooded or damaged.

Applications are required to be sent in within 15 working days of the event happening, with the deadline for the recent flooding falling on September 14.

In addition to this, teams from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, an executive agency within DAERA, have been working to assess the extent of pollution in flooded areas. Results from its chemical monitoring programme are expected in the coming days.

DAERA is also working in partnership with Rural Support, a charity that offers a helpline for people impacted by a range of rural issues - with a specific focus on those impacted by recent flood damage.

Extra caution

The department has urged farmers to take extra precautions in the wake of the flooding, and to be especially careful working in flooded areas or damaged property.

It has issued the following guidelines:

  • Do not enter flooded areas unless it is absolutely necessary to do so.
  • Work in pairs or let someone know where you are going and carry a charged mobile phone.
  • Wear appropriate protective clothing including a high visibility jacket.
  • Take extra care when using machinery and drive slowly and carefully on flooded roads.
  • Remember flood water can lift manhole covers so extra care should be taken and particular care is needed in deep water or where is it flowing rapidly.
  • Contact their local vet if they are concerned about welfare or disease risk to stock.

DAERA staff will hold clinics in conjunction with the Ulster Farmers' Union to advise those impacted by flood damage. These will be held in the following locations: August 30, 9am - 5pm at Glenelly House in Plumbridge; August 31, 9am - 5pm at the YMCA in Drumahoe and the Community Hall, Eglinton; September 1, 9am - 5pm at Strabane UFU Office.

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