The Ulster Farmers’ Union is consulting with members on the future of the Northern Ireland’s non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme.
The scandal-hit scheme – dubbed cash for ash by its many critics – collapsed after politicians neglected to cap expenditure, leading to widespread abuse and inflated claims, and the ensuing row ultimately led to the stalemate currently in place at Stormont.
An inquiry into the scheme, which launched in 2012, found it quickly became clear to many poultry farmers that installing a boiler to burn pellets would be very profitable, leading to an unsustainable uptake and the decision by Stormont to cut the tariff rate that had previously been agreed.
UFU deputy president, Victor Chestnutt, said a sub-group of the UFU’s rural enterprise committee has been specifically convened to address the consultation and to formulate a response. “In addition, we have sought the views of the UFU poultry committee, many of whom are boiler owners, who have been directly impacted by the reduced tariffs and have concerns about any future changes in the scheme,” he said.
Chestnutt said: “The outcome of this consultation will have consequences for the large number of farmers who invested in boilers for their farm businesses. We want to ensure that we achieve the best possible outcome for the sector. Since the reduced tariffs were introduced on 1 April 2017, many of our members have been under severe pressure, both financially and mentally.”
The UFU’s rural enterprise committee will meet next week to discuss the consultation and recommendations put forward by the sub-group and UFU poultry committee with the aim of agreeing a position to put forward to the UFU’s Executive committee for final approval. The UFU has also written to the Department of the Economy to highlight concerns regarding key elements of the consultation.
“We would also urge our members to consider submitting their own individual responses to the consultation. Affected members will receive an update from the UFU on the matter shortly,” said the UFU deputy president.
Closing date for the consultation is 6 September 2018.