Bygones Days: Department Accused of Driving Up Land Prices (1984)

The charge follows payment of around £3,000 per acre by Loughry Agricultural College for a nearby farm.

Several farmers who were outbid by the Department for the 58-acre property, known as Downs Farm, near Tullyhogue, Cookstown, Co Tyrone, were bitter and had raised the issue with the Ulster Fanners’ Union.

They were angry on two fronts: they claimed it was unfair to local farmers that Loughry College, with government support, could step in and acquire land with their virtually unlimited resources; they said this contradicted government policy which had encouraged Ulster farmers to increase the size of their holdings in order to make them more viable.

Mr J Hutchinson of Moneymore, Co Londonderry, with his champion bull Charolais at the Automart show and sale in Portadown in October 1982. Photo: Farming Life Archive/News Letter

A department spokesman said one of the reasons it paid more than £170,000 for the operation, on which there is no living accommodation, was the increased number of year’s certificate course students currently attending Loughry College.

He explained that over the past two years, the number of students has increased from 40 to 120.

“In order to give all these students the necessary practical experience in a commercial enterprise, it was necessary to purchase this land,” they said.

“The land will be used for the further development of facilities for these students, such as beef production, arable crops or indeed any subject that fits into the college curriculum.”

Mr William Robson, Kilrbide, Doagh, Co Antrim, pictured in October 1982 with his bull Simmental, who was the supreme inter-breed champion at the Automart show and sale in Portadown. Photo: Farming Life Archive/News Letter

The spokesperson pointed out that at that time, this college had 420 acres of arable land and, in addition, had just under 200 leased acres.

“As the development of the college is long-term, it is obviously in the interest of the college to own most of its own land, hence the reason for purchasing this farm,” the spokesperson told Farming Life.

Regarding the leased land, the spokesman said the leases still had some time to run and the situation with them would not be decided until the current arrangements ended.

Mr. Verdon Wright, press officer for the UFU’s East Tyrone group, described the price paid by the department for the land as exceptional.

Mr Thomas W Taylor, Fyfin, Strabane, Co Tyrone, pictured in October 1982 with his champion Charolais at the Automart show and sale in Portadown. Photo: Farming Life Archive/News Letter

“The average price per acre is around £2,000 and in some cases that includes a dwelling,” he said. He said he hoped that farmers whose land was acquired by government departments in the future for projects such as road widening etc. would be paid on a similar basis.

Mr John McConnell, press officer for the Agricultural Producers Association of Northern Ireland, said he believed it was UK Government policy to ‘sell their land and let the farmers do the farming “.

He said: “The ministry has its priorities all wrong in this country. It demonstrates what we have been saying all along that the department has plenty of money and the sad story they keep telling the farming community that they have no money no longer holds water.

Mr McConnell said the department had advised farmers not to pay more than £1,500 per acre for land as it would not be “a profitable proposition in the current financial climate”.

Pictured in October 1982 is a crowded section of the ring during the sale of the first season suckler calves at Ballyclare. Photo: Farming Life Archive/News Letter

He added: “Now they’re turning around and paying double that figure themselves.”

Mr McConnell continued: ‘If farmers want to match prices like this, they will have to borrow more money and take on more debt.’

Mr McConnell said he would like to know where the department gets all the money from when it has to close rural offices due to funding cuts.

He said: “Just a few weeks ago they said they could not afford to send one of their advisers two hours a week to a large market town in Co Londonderry where members of the farming community have to to fend for themselves now.”

UFU rap minister for cuts: Ulster Farmers’ Union chairman Dee Robinson during this week in 1984 commented on Agriculture Minister Michael Jopling’s statement on the impact on the agriculture from the budget cuts announced by the government.

Mr Robinson said: “While details of where the actual cuts will be applied are not yet available, it is evident that the £40m reduction in spending under the capital grant schemes will have a serious impact on the industry’s ability to maintain or increase its competitiveness and efficiency.

Pictured in October 1982 discussing silage quality is Sinclair Robson, right, with Roy McClenaghan, left, DANI, Ballyclare. Photo: Farming Life Archive/News Letter

“The union has written to the Department of Northern Ireland urging that certain cuts, such as drainage, be avoided where possible.

“Drainage grants play a vital role in agricultural development in Northern Ireland and any reduction from their current level could have a serious effect.

“This £40m cut follows a similar £30m cut announced just last year and will deepen the blows farmers in Northern Ireland have already received this year.

“Farmers are already facing substantial tax increases following the recent reduction and proposed phasing out of first year tax rebates on plant and machinery and the proposed reduction in farm construction allowances,” he said. he declares.

“A reduction in investment aid of around £40 million will make it very difficult for farmers in Northern Ireland to restructure their businesses in light of changing production priorities.”

About Keneth T. Graves

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