Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs has called for a common sense and flexible approach by the Department of Agriculture with regards to the Friday 19 April deadline for the ‘fallen animal scheme’.
Under the scheme funding is being made available to meet the costs of collection and disposal of fallen animals and make hardship payments to farmers whose animals died as a result of the snow storm on 21 and 22 March 2013.
Roy Beggs MLA said:
“Given the near miraculous discovery of two ‘lost sheep’ this week in the Antrim hills, I would hope that the Minister takes need of my concern about the deadline which I made during a recent assembly Question time. The thaw has been very slow in coming to some high ground in East Antrim.”
In Stormont Mr Beggs had said:
“ I too express concern about the proposed deadline of 19 April for the fallen animals scheme. My daughter was in the Antrim hills at the weekend and reported walking through 3-feet snowdrifts. The dykes above Larne and Carrick still show sizeable drifts of snow in many places, and, from them, many fallen animals are likely to emerge. Therefore, will the Minister ensure that undue pressures are not put on farmers who have already suffered extensive losses and that that scheme will be extended? It is physically impossible for many of them to recover their stock at this time.”
In reply the Agriculture minister said:
“ For the very reasons that the Member has outlined, I have extended it to 19 April. I will keep that under review, because I saw for myself as late as Friday the depth of the snow and the difficulties that are still being faced. I do not want farmers to put themselves in any danger or difficulty by going up and trying to take the livestock down until it is safe to do so. I will keep that position under review. 19 April is the date for now. Let us work towards that, and we will just watch how the thaw happens.”