A meeting of over 50 dairy farmers in Donaghcloney on Monday has resulted in the Assembly Agriculture Committee being recalled to discuss the crisis in the local dairy industry.
The meeting organised by farmer Jonny Matthews following contact with Ulster Unionist Agriculture spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson was addressed by Mrs Dobson and UUP MEP Jim Nicholson.
Mrs Dobson, who is an MLA for Upper Bann, said: “Our local dairy farmers have for some time been at breaking point and this morning we heard directly from them of the hardship they are facing.
“Recalling the Assembly Agriculture Committee this Thursday afternoon is an important step in allowing the voice of farmers to be heard by Government.
“Farmers from all corners of Northern Ireland came to the Matthews farm this morning to discuss a crisis which, if left unaddressed, could force many out of the industry altogether. Farmers cannot be expected to continue to receive below production prices for their produce.
“We heard the very real concerns that farmers feel ignored by a Minister and Department who are fixated on Going for Growth and relocating their headquarters to Ballykelly whilst farmers are left to struggle on alone.
“Farming is a family business where the boardroom is the farming kitchen, with three or even four generations involved. We need to fight for the future of farming in Northern Ireland if the industry is to survive. The very real fear is that without help farming families will go to the wall which will affect entire rural communities from the supplies merchant to the corner shop.”
Jim Nicholson MEP said: “I commend young Jonny for his initiative in contacting Jo-Anne to set up this meeting and was delighted to address a meeting so well attended and which gave everyone the opportunity to contribute.
“We met in a working farmyard which is where dairy farmers spend the majority of their time but I believe it is indicative of the feeling in the industry that so many travelled so far to be part of the mass meeting.
“I recently submitted my Dairy report in Europe which received overwhelming support from fellow MEP’s but it’s now over to Commissioner Hogan and the European Commission to respond. I have placed the facts affecting our farmers in front of them and they must act sooner rather than later.
“The DARD and Defra Ministers also have a part to play, they must proactively press for the Commission to review the intervention price to assist the sector.”