DfE sacrificing farming families to cover up for RHI failings, says UFU

Wednesday, 6 March, 2019

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says the RHI legislation being rushed through the House of Commons will have ruinous consequences for Northern Ireland’s farming industry. “The proposed new tariffs due to come into force of 1st April are a punishment mechanism. It is grossly unfair farm family businesses are being sacrificed to cover up the monumental failures of others,” said UFU deputy president, Victor Chestnutt.

The comments were made after the UFU met Secretary of State Karen Bradley’s advisors in Belfast today (5 March 2019). Legislation is currently being accelerated through the House of Commons which, if adopted, would see the RHI tariff drastically reduced.

“We have grave concerns about the impact these dramatic tariff cuts will have on farm businesses involved in the RHI scheme. It will be a devastating blow for these farmers and their families. It will create a massive financial hole and they will have to find a way subsidise the RHI scheme from elsewhere in their business. This is outrageous and unacceptable. These people entered a government scheme – encouraged by politicians, civil servants, and processors - in good faith and have used the scheme responsibly. Now they are being abandoned and paying the price for the utter failure of civil servants and politicians,” said Mr Chestnutt.

The UFU says DfE’s calculations, which resulted in the new proposed tariff, are fundamentally flawed. “There are a number of things DfE have not considered. We have raised this with them and with the Secretary of State’s office. The proposed tariff, if implemented, will cripple farm businesses in the RHI scheme. In the best case scenario, farmers will receive £2,000 per boiler per year under the new tariff. Unfortunately, for some there will be no payment because they will have already reached the threshold. Farmers have suffered through this debacle for the last two years. To end up here, is soul-crushing,” said Mr Chestnutt.

The UFU says it is a race against time to stop these destructive proposals as the NI Rates and Energy Bill is due to go through the House of Commons tomorrow (6 March 2019). “The future of Northern Ireland’s renewable energy industry is in Karen Bradley’s hands. Ultimately, she has the final say. Pass these proposals and many farm family businesses will be ruined. Farmers across Northern Ireland will completely lose confidence in any government run scheme, especially when it comes to renewable energy. It is fundamentally wrong the make scheme participants pay for the failings of others,” said the UFU deputy president.

UFU president, Ivor Ferguson, and UFU CEO, Wesley Aston, also met DUP MP’s in London today (5 March 2019) to highlight concerns. The UFU  met Sinn Fein on Wednesday 6th March.