Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Claire Kerrane TD, has called on Minister McConalogue to take action on urgent concerns raised by farmers.
Farmers have raised serious concerns over the past week around the delays to farm payments, announced changes to the nitrates derogation, and the crisis facing the sheep sector.
These concerns remain outstanding despite being raised with the Minister for several months.
Teachta Kerrane said:
“Farmers and representative organisations are yet again having to raise serious concerns which will affect many of our family farms and rural communities.
“The impact of delays to farm payments, of changes to the nitrates derogation, and of the crisis affecting the sheep sector are not new – these are issues that have been raised time and time again with the Minister.
“Yet, what we are seeing now is several of these significant issues coming to a head following months of the Minister failing to listen to farmers and failing to take action to address these concerns.
“Back in May, I raised the delays of payments – the Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS) and Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) schemes – directly with the Minister in the Dáil and several times since, including before the Dáil recess in July.
“I asked the Minister to instruct his Department to expedite establishing the new system to avoid delays to these crucial payments and believe, if there was a will to do so, it would have been done.
“With regard to the nitrates derogation, Sinn Féin have also repeatedly pointed out that the mechanism on which the review was based is flawed. It is also disappointing that Minister McConalogue was not transparent with farmers about the presence of this mechanism and the required review for months after the Nitrates Action Plan was approved, and this is something my colleague Matt Carthy highlighted for some time.
“Similarly, we have repeatedly called for the Minister to engage on the ongoing crisis facing the sheep sector. This matter has been at the fore since I took up the role of party spokesperson for Agriculture back in April, and yet there has been almost no movement or progress since then. I have quizzed the Minister on the potential use of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) to provide much-needed supports to sheep farmers, but he has stated that this is not possible without any explanation.
“It is really disappointing that these significant issues have been presented to the Minister many times and, despite the alarm bells being sounded from farmers, we are in the situation we are in today.
“It is not too late for the Minister to engage constructively on these key issues, and I am demanding that he does so as a matter of urgency. This is no way to treat farmers. The Minister needs to wake up to the impact of his decisions and the reality for farmers.”