Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has called on the Department of Agriculture to be flexible with the Single Farm Payment application deadline in light of the COVID19 crisis.
Speaking after a meeting of the Agriculture committee, the West Tyrone MLA said:
“I have been contacted by many farmers who are extremely anxious at the spread of COVID19 and who are working frantically to meet the 15 May deadline for single farm payment applications.
“The overwhelming number of applications are conducted online and many of these are completed by people in the presence of the farmer. In some cases, this is a neighbour, a farm advisor or a friend.
“This works against advice social distancing and isolation and places the farmers and those around them at increased risk of infection.
“The average age of our farmers is almost 60. This places them in the ‘vulnerable’ category and after decades of hard work on the farm, many have underlying health conditions.
“In addition to this, in many rural areas, such as the Sperrins, they are working off unreliable broadband resulting in the farmer leaving their farm and travel to another location to complete their application.
“I pressed department officials on the need to show maximum understanding and flexibility in order to protect people’s health at this sensitive time.”