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Hill farmers need to be supported

21 May, 2013

Sinn Féin MLA and member of the agriculture committee Ian Milne has called for more support for hill farmers.

 In making his maiden speech in the Assembly Mr. Milne said,

“Hill farmers make up a large percentage of the total population and it is important that they are supported.

“I recognise and welcome the Minister’s commitment to hill farmers especially in her swift reaction to the recent crisis. However the problems facing hill farmers are more complicated than the recent crisis with snow and fodder.

 “Research carried out by Oxfam last year found that hill farmers are forced to take drastic action, such as cutting back on their own grocery bill and foregoing the basics in life just to keep their farms viable. Indeed, some of the accounts that we heard from the charity Rural Support, when it addressed the Committee recently, brought home to us the sheer level of emotion and trauma that is experienced by our farmers as they struggle to make ends meet.

 “I am calling on the Department to look at ways in which hill farmers can be supported either through grants to improve outbuildings or by ensuring that the new proposed Area of Natural Constraints replacing the Less Favoured Areas payments are more accessible to hill farmers.

 “It is also important that we look at improving infrastructure such as internet access, rural health and educational improvements to improve the lives of hill farmers many of whom live in isolated area.

 “I will continue to support the hill farmers in attempting to make the industry sustainable in the long term so that this way of life so crucial to our society is maintained.”

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