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Falling farm incomes should be a wake-up call for the Executive - Dobson

Provisional figures released by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) show that ‘Total Income from Farming’ in Northern Ireland is down by 52.2% in real terms from £290 million in 2011 to £143 million in 2012.

Ulster Unionist Agriculture Spokesperson, Jo-Anne Dobson MLA said: “This bitterly disappointing announcement is the inevitable result of an Industry which is experiencing considerable pressure. For too long now Farmers have been squeezed from all sides by increasing costs and falling farm gate prices for their produce.’

“This situation is not helped by having a Department of Agriculture which shows a cavalier indifference to the plight of the farmer.’

“The fact that ‘Total Income from Farming’ has fallen by such a huge margin is indicative of what farmers have been saying for so long. Yet, in her response to this announcement the Minister merely hopes that 2013 will lead to improvements. As Minister it is within Michelle O`Neill`s power to take immediate steps to help farmers and I call on her to swiftly respond to bring help to the industry before it is too late.’

“Whilst the Minister confirms her concern and disappointment she must share responsibility for this drastic drop in farm incomes. Her Department continues to take actions which only heap added pressure onto an industry which is already at breaking point.’

“Farmers need to have stability and fairness if we are to see a bright future for the industry. Many will be concerned that this announcement will lead to young farmers taking the decision to desert the industry, rather than feel there is a future for them in farming.’

“Only this week in the Assembly I and my Party Colleague Tom Elliott MLA, on behalf of The Ulster Unionist Party, pointed out yet another failed opportunity to support the agri-food industry through the outright rejection of the Rose Energy proposal; a proposal which deserved much greater work amongst Stormont Departments – when farmers needed help from the Executive, they received indecision for four years and then outright rejection.’

“I am calling for complete change of mind-set within the Department of Agriculture and indeed Stormont Departments as a whole. They must adopt a ‘can do’ and not a ‘won’t do’ approach to economic recovery.’

“We are so often told that the Agriculture Industry is the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of the Northern Ireland Economy. It is therefore the responsibility of the Executive to ensure that it remains that way – today’s announcement should be a wakeup call to Ministers to put their efforts full square behind farmers.’

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Ulster Unionists