Agriculture minister visits stricken Glenarm farms

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has stepped in to offer assistance to farmers experiencing difficulties caused by snow.

Speaking during a visit to farms in Glenarm, on Monday, the Sinn Fein minister said that she was seeking the support of a Ministry of Defence helicopter as a matter of urgency to get feed to animals in the rural area.

And she stated that she would be liaising with other Stormont departments to get roads cleared.

The minister said: “These are some of the worst weather conditions these areas of the north have seen in many decades and I am particularly concerned about the situation of farmers with livestock which may not have access to feed.

“I have asked that all resources available to the Executive, including those of the emergency services, are made available to help those affected.

“Good information will help my officials ensure that other utilities are alerted to problems, and prioritise their assistance. It will also allow us to assess what sort of additional help the Executive could offer.

“This afternoon (Monday), I have asked the Secretary of State for urgent access to helicopter support, and my department is currently sourcing livestock feed for those most affected.

“A main priority is to ensure roads are cleared to help farmers in dealing with the effects of the severe weather and I have been speaking with Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy today on how our Department’s can work closer on this issue. I have instructed Rivers Agency staff to provide support to the Roads Service to assist in clearing minor roads in affected areas which will assist in getting much needed access to these areas.

“I have also instructed the chief executive of the Forest Service to deploy their tracked vehicles to help support this work.”

The minister concluded: “Farmers experiencing problems should call their normal contact within the Department or alternatively the DARD Helpline on 0300 2007852.