Stormont meeting aims to help snow-hit farmers

ROBIN Swann MLA and Chairman of the Stormont Employment and Learning Committee has joined forces with fellow politicians to organise an important meeting with farmers from North and East Antrim who were affected by the recent snow blizzards.

Assemblyman Swann is North Antrim UUP Chairman and Party Chief Whip and is a Past President of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster.

He said: “I believe it is important that the Stormont farming committee has the full opportunity to be fully briefed, so that it can ensure the Department responds appropriately.

“This was when I was approached by my party colleague and Moyle councillor Sandra Hunter and I contacted the DARD Committee to take evidence from this group.

“The group highlighted their own difficulties and those of their friends and neighbours, and drew attention not just the financial hardship that many farmers will face following this crisis, but also the mental strain”.

Following the meeting, Mr Swann has challenged the Farming Minister regarding many of the points which the farmers raised.

Mr Swann added: “I have asked the Farming Minister if, where necessary, she will prioritise areas or farmers affected by the recent snow crisis for inspection to enable payment of Single Farm Payment as early as possible.

“I have also asked if she will consider a positive weighting in the next tranche of the FMS for farmers affected by the recent snow crisis to enable them to rebuild houses,” said Mr Swann.

His party colleague, Jo-Anne Dobson MLA, also said following the meeting: “The livelihoods of many farmers across Northern Ireland are now in jeopardy, with those in North and East Antrim being particularly badly hit, by the recent severe weather.

“That is why it is extremely important that their voices are heard by those, like members of the Agriculture Committee, who are in a position to lobby the Executive and the Agriculture Minister on their behalf to ensure they receive the help and support they need.”

Councillor Sandra Hunter, who was one of the group, said: “I found it extremely useful to have our case presented to the DARD Committee and I and the rest of the group would like to thank Robin Swann MLA for providing us with the opportunity.”