Storm-hit N. Ireland farmers promised aid

April 5, 2013 at 12:18 PM
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BELFAST, Northern Ireland, April 5 (UPI) -- More than 3,000 dead sheep and other livestock have been found in Northern Ireland, killed by a late-season blizzard in March, agriculture officials said.

With some high-lying farms still buried in deep snowdrifts, more dead livestock will be counted and collected, the Belfast Telegraph reported Friday. Farmers are being offered assistance in disposing of the carcasses and hardship payments for their losses, with 5 million pounds (about $7.5 million) allocated.

Michelle O'Neill, the provincial agriculture minister, said after touring a farm in Plumbridge, County Tyrone, the carcasses of 3,130 livestock had been collected across the affected areas.

"This immediate work is very important for a range of animal health and environmental impact factors," O'Neill said. "Also, the final hardship package will be linked to verifiable losses."

O'Neill tried to reassure farmers confused by a published list of areas eligible for aid. She said everyone hit by the blizzard would get assistance, including those in small areas outside Down and Antrim, the two counties where the storm struck hardest.

Harry Sinclair, president of the Ulster Farmers Union, said farmers need help feeding the livestock that survived the storm.

"They are not the type of people who would be able to go and negotiate large bank overdrafts so a lot of them are in a difficult position and need help immediately," he told the BBC.

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