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Preliminary Agri Census highlights changing nature of farming

24 August, 2006


Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has said that the Preliminary Agricultural Census published today highlights the changing nature of farming.

Ms Gildernew said:

"The preliminary findings confirm the continuing loss of farmers and farm jobs. The figures also highlight the changing nature of farming and particularly the loss of smaller farm holding and the development of larger farms.

"A number of key findings highlight this pattern; the 8% drop in arable silage, the 3% drop in cattle numbers and 1% increase in dairy cows, the 5% drop in breeding ewes all point to smaller farm units closing down and being replaced by larger consolidated farms

"The impact of the loss of smaller farms to the rural community cannot be under-estimated, particularly if the situation is compounded by the restrictive nature of the draft rural planning proposals in PPS 14. Sinn Féin have raised specific concerns with both DARD and DRD about the regulations governing what they insulting describe as 'hobby' farmers.

"The approach to modulation has also not supported the maintenance of the small farm holding.

"The small family farm is not just an important part of rural Irish life, within the context of the north it also represents, particularly in relation to hill farms and hill sheep farming, the historical nature of the division and ownership of land.

"This situation must be fully recognised before we see the fatal death of the small farm with the resulting impact on local rural communities." ENDS

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