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DARD urged to practice what they preach

14 October, 2005

Sinn Fein Agriculture spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle
Gildernew has challenged the Department of Agriculture and Rural
Development to practice what they preach after DARD Permanent Secretary Mr
Pat Toal, claimed that one of the key features of CAP reform was to
provide 'maximum possible facilitation to help farmers'.

Speaking as delegates from the EU Paying Agencies from across Europe meet
in Belfast to discuss CAP reform Ms Gildernew said:

"It will be interesting to hear the outcomes of this conference, in terms
of how other member states are performing in getting the Single Farm
payment out to their farmers by the end of this year.

"DARD have already accepted that no money will be paid this year to hard
pressed farmers here, in fact it may be well into 2006 before farmers get
what they are entitled to.

"Cutting red tape and allowing farmers the freedom to farm was one of the
two principles that was meant to underpin CAP reform and one of its was
one of the main selling points. Yet the reality to date is that this has
not happened.

"However, Pat Toal must practice what he preaches when it comes claims
that the department has acted on the second principle, to ensure 'the
maximum possible facilitation to help farmers understand and adjust to the
new regime'. The fact is that DARD have not put this into practice.

"Sinn Féin requested that the department engage more directly with the
farming community, by holding their own meetings and putting more staff in
local offices to assist with the complicated Maps and IACS applications
this year. However, this local assistance was extremely poor and whenever
the deadline came for submitting applications DARD again showed their
inflexibility by not opening offices later and at weekends.

"In no way has DARD's performance, in my opinion, been to provide the
'maximum possible facilitation'. There is a window of opportunity to
address this failure but it is fast closing. Hopefully Pat Toal will come
away from this conference with a greater appreciation of how others within
the EU are doing more to both cut red tape and give maximum support to the
farming community." ENDS

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