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Simpson's criticism of Minister wrong

5 February, 2015 - by Oliver McMullan

Responding to recent criticism of the Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill by the DUPs David Simpson regarding the Minister’s commitment to the dairy industry, Sinn Féin’s Agriculture spokesperson Oliver McMullan said,

 “Mr Simpson should have checked the facts before issuing his criticism as he would have found that the Minister Michelle O’Neill has been pro-active in developing and highlighting a variety of measures available for farmers.

 “I’m aware that the Minister is having on-going and regular communication with farming representatives and she is well aware about the challenges currently facing the dairy sector.

 “Just prior to Christmas, the Minister met with senior officials from all of the main banks and sought assurances for greater flexibility for farmers experiencing cash flow difficulties.

 "Contrary to Mr Simpson’s remarks, the Minister has been raising the issue of falling dairy prices with the DEFRA Secretary of State, Liz Truss since prices dropped last year and just recently requested she raise EU support for the local dairy industry at a meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels.

 “The Minister also recently outlined her support, in principle for proposals for lowering the tax burden on farm profits and investment and has since urged the Finance Minister Simon Hamilton to raise this with the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a matter of urgency.

 “Sinn Féin is well aware about the current challenges facing the agriculture industry, indeed our party is currently undertaking a farming road show across the North involving the Minister engaging directly with farmers, listening to their concerns but also advising them about the opportunities which lie ahead.

 “Just this week in the Assembly, the Minister revealed how she was focusing on a number of potential new export market opportunities and explained how progress was well underway in developing the new grants scheme which will offer exciting opportunities for all farmers who wish to improve efficiency by upgrading and modernising their farms.”

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