Rural concern

ONLY eight staff out of nearly 3,000 employed by DARD are employed in rural development, an Upper Bann MLA has revealed.

Sam Gardiner said: “Only 5.8 full time equivalent staff are employed providing advice to farmers and others on DARD support services and programmes in rural development, and a further 2.3 full time equivalent staff are employed by CAFRE in giving training and advice to farmers in devising and implementing farm diversification plans.

“Farm diversification and rural business development are important not only in boosting farm incomes, but also in providing employment opportunities in rural areas.

“Quite clearly employing 8.1 full time equivalent staff out of a total DARD staffing complement of 2,990 shows that rural development in not much of a priority in the Department.”