“If they are serious about tackling the crisis facing Ulster’s farming industry, DARD officials need to get out from behind their desks and onto the farms across Northern Ireland as a matter of urgency.”
These were the comments of Ulster Unionist Agriculture Spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson MLA as she echoed the views of farmers across Northern Ireland following disappointing news from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI).
“Frankly, DARD has not been doing nearly enough to help the industry which they are supposed to exist to serve. This week’s news coming from DETI that bankruptcies in the industry have more than tripled in ten years simply confirms what many of us have been saying for a long time.
“Despite the industry being the jewel in the crown of our local economy it is clear that the Minister and Department of Agriculture care little for its future and the economic viability of farms across Northern Ireland.
“The effects of banks calling the shots on a farm, rather than the farmer and indeed the stigma attached to bankruptcies, including the long-term effects on the families concerned must never be underestimated.
“We need to see initiatives coming forward to deliver real help and assistance, assistance without strings and paperwork attached.
“Day and daily farmers put in the hard work and in return are constantly confronted by DARD in its favoured role as industry policeman rather than being assisted by them which should be their primary objective.
“The long-term mind-set and culture within DARD of overburdening bureaucracy which is squeezing farmers needs to come to an end. It is clear that their actions are harming rather than helping the industry.
“The Ulster Unionist Party has long called for common sense to prevail and for the Department to take a step back from farmers to allow them to get on with what they do best. Free from interference, free to farm.
“Whilst farmers have faced a difficult year due to conditions well beyond their control, including spiralling feed costs, below production farm gate prices and weather conditions, they need help, not hindrance from DARD.
“We can however have a bright future ahead for the many young farmers who are coming forward to take up the reigns as the future of this industry. We need to give hope to the next generation that there is a future in farming.
“That future will depend on the long term aim of DARD and whether they are prepared to rise to the challenge and change their ways.”