Flooding: Financial Support for Farmers

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 22 April 2024.

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Photo of Andrew Muir Andrew Muir Alliance 2:45, 22 April 2024

I thank the Member for her question. I recognise that 2023 was a challenging year for potato growers, and that our very wet and late spring of 2024 is now negatively impacting on farming operations across almost every sector in the industry. I am conscious of what the wider impact will be if wet weather continues in the weeks ahead and have therefore made representations to the UK Government about the need for central government intervention if the situation does not improve.

In the meantime, I encourage all farmers who are seeking advice on management of their farming operations during this ongoing poor weather to contact the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) through their local CAFRE adviser.

A financial support scheme for potato growers affected by last year's flooding in the counties of Armagh and Down has been rigorously examined by DAERA. A business case was developed to test the need for, and value for money of, a potential support package and to look at what the net additional NI economy impact might be. However, the conclusion of that process was that government intervention was not likely to meet the threshold associated with 'Managing Public Money' that is required to justify and authorise that expenditure. For that reason, DAERA has not implemented a support scheme.

I previously advised Members of my intention to review the impact of the flooding event. As part of my review, I instructed officials to undertake inspections of fields that were identified as being subject to flooding. That work has been completed, but it did not support a change in the conclusion.