£4m aid package for livestock farmers introduced
LIVESTOCK farmers are to benefit from a new £4 million support package.
The funding also extends to milk producers is to help with a range of issues.
Farmers can apply for assistance to humanely destruct BVD Persistently Infected (PI) calves, improve pig meat quality, manage soils and nutrients more effectively, and receive training in business planning and risk management.
The money is part of an EU allocation of aid to the UK of €30.2m (£26.6m), of which Northern Ireland will receive €4.8m (£4.07m).
The Exceptional Adjustment Aid is part of a €500m (£418m) aid package agreed at the Agri-Fish Council in July.
Agriculture minister Michelle McIlveen said she was "acutely aware of the extreme and prolonged difficulties faced by many of our livestock farmers over the past two years".
"I am encouraged that dairy farmers have already had the opportunity to bid for EU aid to reduce their milk production, where that suited their particular business circumstances. Those farmers should receive a much-needed cash injection in the new year.
“However, I want to be able to do more for all livestock farmers affected by the recent market turbulence and to help build a stronger, more sustainable and competitive industry for the future.
"That is why I pressed for a favourable share of the UK exceptional adjustment aid envelope and why I have decided to use our £4 million allocation to fund measures that will support all eligible livestock sectors here, including milk producers."
Among the measures is assistance to incentivise the humane destruction of dairy and beef calves persistently infected with BVD (PIs) at a flat rate.
That includes a contribution towards the cost of replacing the animal and not simply the cost of removal to slaughter.
Meanwhile, a programme to enhance the competitiveness of the north's pig industry through training in endoparasites control and financial support for the provision of appropriate medication will also be introduced.
A free soil sampling and analysis service, plus information and advice on how to best use the results of their analyses to support efficient farm nutrient management and hence sustainable production is also planed as is training in business planning and risk management through Cafre.
Ulster Farmers' Union president Barclay Bell welcomed the plans.
"What we want to see might be termed as the 'biggest bang for our buck' from limited funding," he added.
"While we await the details around each of these measures, we believe that this will be best achieved through programmes that invest in the future of the industry.
"We will also work to ensure the programmes continue once the aid allocation has been used.
"For now, however, this is a positive decision – and one we can portray as an example of the industry investing in its own future."