Agriculture Minister has betrayed farmers – Dickson

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has accused the Agriculture Minister of betraying farmers who need certainty about income streams.

Mr Dickson was speaking after receiving a response from Minister McIlveen regarding the Basic Payment Scheme. Stewart Dickson said: “In the run up to the EU referendum the Minister and her Party campaigned to leave on the basis that a Brexit presented great opportunities. Now, more than five months after the vote there seems to be more potential threats than opportunities.

“I asked the Minister to what extent her Department will guarantee replacement finance for the Basic Payment Scheme following a potential United Kingdom exit from the European Union. I was shocked to receive the one line reply that it was too early in the process to provide financial guarantees. It is a pity the Minister and her colleagues did not apply the same caution when they told voters they would be financially better off by voting leave.

“The Basic Payment Scheme is the biggest of the European Union’s rural grants and payments to help the farming industry and is essential to help many farmers stay in business.

“The farming community make a huge contribution to our economy. They face many difficulties on a daily basis, from fluctuating prices they can obtain for their produce to the negative impacts severe weather can bring. One thing that can greatly help our farmers is knowing they have a guaranteed income stream. It is regrettable that the Minister has not been able to provide that reassurance. That situation needs to be urgently reviewed and changed.”

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