Ulster Unionist Agriculture Spokesperson, Jo-Anne Dobson MLA, has praised the four farmers from the Banbridge area who presented to Thursday’s recalled Agriculture Committee at Stormont.
The local MLA said: “All credit is due to Jonny Matthews, Kyle Savage, James Stewart and Charlie Weir who represented an entire industry as they presented expertly to the recalled agriculture committee.
“It all started in Jonny’s yard in Donacloney last Monday where following the meeting with around 50 farmers including Jonny, Kyle, James and Charlie, I requested that the Committee to be recalled from summer recess alongside Edwin Poots MLA.
“As they presented we heard the very real affect which falling dairy farmgate prices are having on an entire industry and indeed on farming families across Northern Ireland.
She added: “This latest crisis in our dairy sector has not come without warning; it has come as a result of a wide range of factors, not least progressively falling farmgate prices and the continuing effect of the ban of exports to Russia. This crisis is just the latest in a whole series of episodes when market volatility and poor prices have had a devastating impact on local farmers and their families.
“Farmers, from all sectors, simply cannot continue to sell produce at well below production costs indefinitely. The number of farmers who attended the protest at Stormont on Thursday was indicative of the pain being felt by the wider sector.
She continued: “The Minister’s evidence at the emergency Committee meeting did little to inspire local farmers. In fact, she appears to have been taken by surprise by this latest milk crisis. Her only response to the problem was to call for further discussions and further strategies.
“I note in the course of the meeting the Minister acknowledged that the current Going for Growth strategy is no longer working for farmers, primarily because they are no longer at the core of it. This is something which I have been saying about this strategy since day one.
She concluded: “Worryingly the strategy was the Minister’s only objective up until the start of the meeting so now we must wait to see if she is prepared to actually intensify her direct support for local farmers and their families.
“Now is the time for action, not discussions.”