Business

Fund to aid farmers affected by flood launched

UNDER WATER: Agriculture minister Michelle O'Neill with farmer Jimmy Maguire viewing the impact of flooding near Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh in January

A FUNDING package has been launched to compensate farmers who were affected by flooding in January.

Heavy rain caused havoc for farmers across the north and especially close to Lough Neagh and Fermanagh lakelands.

Agriculture minister Michelle O'Neill said the £1,000 aid would be made available to those impacted by the conditions.

The aid programme was agreed at a meeting of the Northern Ireland executive last week.

Ms O'Neill said the assistance would also cover small businesses and community groups including places of worship.

"This is the latest in a package of measures which demonstrates the executive's commitment to supporting those affected or threatened by flooding," said Ms O'Neill.

"I have long held the view that flood prevention must be the priority and that is why, in January, I launched the Homeowner Flood Protection Grant Scheme which is a Â1million scheme to help people who wish to protect their homes from flooding.

"The scheme will provide 90 per cent funding to owners of residential properties at risk of flooding to install physical barriers and equipment to help reduce the impact of flooding on their homes. I also extended this scheme more widely to ensure small businesses and farmers get help to protect their properties from the impacts of flooding. Work on the business case has started and I expect this scheme to be available later this year."

In January, the executive secured £1.3million of additional money and decided to use this to fund preventative measures and prepare for future flood incidents.

Ms O'Neill added: "While flooding is a natural occurrence and it is impossible to provide 100 per cent protection, today's announcement recognises the hardship some people faced this winter. "

Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) deputy president Barclay Bell said the damage to some farms had been "severe and costly".

“We are fully aware that this grant will not cover the cost of damage in some cases but it is a gesture at a time when unexpected bills for flood damage are appearing on top of the cash crisis facing many farm families," he said.

“It is clear that what we had this year cannot be written off as something that is inevitable in these areas. It creates havoc for people's normal day-to-day activities when the floods are there, and when they are gone the damage they cause is still there for farm businesses. There has to be a coherent inter-department plan by the Executive to tackle this problem in both the short and long term."

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