The Ulster Farmers’ Union leadership have presented the Agriculture Minister with a number of initiatives to ease the cash flow problems being faced by many local farms.   The UFU says the financial difficulties faced by farmers is the result of a very difficult farming year in 2012 with businesses affected by bad weather, rising costs and disappointing farm gate prices.  The Union says the quality, availability and price of winter fodder is making matters worse for many producers.

In a meeting with the Agriculture Minister today, the UFU tabled the following proposals:
•    DARD should request permission from the EU Commission to immediately release 50% of outstanding Single Farm Payments to applicants who are unlikely to have serious penalties arising from their claim.
•    DARD veterinary staff should review their restrictions on setting up “Approved Finishing Units” with a view to urgently putting in place AFU’s which could relieve the pressure on herds with movement restrictions due to animal disease controls.
•    DARD should consider whether LFA payments could be released earlier than early March. 
•    DARD should consider releasing part payments on all outstanding Agri Environment scheme claims.
•    DARD should consider setting aside some Rural Development funding as an “animal welfare crisis fund”, should current difficulties get worse.
•    The Agriculture and Finance Ministers should consider a joint approach to HMRC to request a deferment of farm business taxation due at the end of January.
•    The Agriculture and Finance Ministers should consider whether a short term loan guarantee scheme could be established to deal with farm businesses where Banks are refusing to extend additional facilities. 

UFU President Harry Sinclair said; “These are pro-active measures which we feel are necessary and would considerably assist farmers who are facing a very difficult winter with a growing cash flow problem.  I hope the Northern Ireland Executive can respond positively.  The underlying prospects for the future of the industry are very good but there is a cash flow problem this winter which needs to be overcome so that we can realise the anticipated economic growth which the industry has the potential to deliver”.