‘Difficulties in getting through to the Department on the phone adding to the frustration.’
Sligo News File Online
Farmers are extremely frustrated over delays in the release of agri payments, according to ICSA Rural Development Chair, Billy Gray.
The delays in delivering national reserve payments and the young farmer top are causing “immense frustration among the eligible farmers,” he said.
There is also, he pointed out “frustration among a core of farmers who were still not paid ANC or BPS payments by the first days of January.”
He said that while the ICSA accepted that the examination of applications involved a lot of work, “every effort must now be made to clear the backlogs.
“Affected farmers are extremely frustrated by the lack of progress and there is a huge annoyance that information is not being made available to them.
“Difficulties in getting through to the Department on the phone is adding to the frustration.”
The Department, he said, “needs to put extra staff on the phone lines to handle queries and provide some indication of when people will be paid.
“While the percentage of farmers paid ANC and BPS is high, this is no consolation to farmers who have got nothing yet and are under severe pressure.
“The Minister needs to look at staffing resources and deployment early in 2016 with a view to ensuring we do not have a repeat in 2016,” he added.
Meanwhile, the president of the ICSA, Patrick Kent, has given a ‘cautious’ welcome to the government announcement of additional funding for victims of flooding. But he questioned whether there will be sufficient funds to cover the widespread damage.
He said, “Farmers have been calling for urgent practical and financial help so our hope would be that these schemes will be delivered promptly to those in need.
“However, a more comprehensive compensation fund similar to the UK’s Farming Recovery Fund would assist a greater number of farmers struggling to recover their livelihoods.
“In addition, to prevent future flooding, funding must be made available to increase the capacity of the lower Shannon between the lakes and the ocean. De-silting and dredging need to be carried out to remove impediments and get the floodwaters moving more efficiently out to sea. I once again call into question the ESB’s ability to independently manage the levels of water in the Shannon”.
Stating that the introduction of a flood management coordination agency “is a step in the right direction,” it concerned him that “it could be bogged down in bureaucratic wrangling between the different agencies.
“We have heard a lot of this before, action was promised and not delivered upon. Difficult and expensive decisions on flood prevention require a real political will to overcome environmental objectors and financial constraints. It remains to be seen if that political will exists.”