THE biggest shake up in
Northern Ireland’s farm-ing policy in 50 years has been unveiled by Agriculture Minister Ed-win Poots, with farmers being warned “business as usual will not be an option”.
In publishing the Future Agri-cultural Policy Framework Port-folio, Mr Poots has outlined proposals for how farming will be supported in the future.
While farmers in England and Wales have been told direct financial support will end in seven years time, the NI policy document indicates Mr Poots would like to see this continue without an end date.
The framework is being viewed as an unique opportunity to
redefine the Province’s agri-cultural policy outside of the European Union, making it better suited to meet the needs of the local industry.
The proposals outlined in the document will be put out for public consultation in the autumn and come as farmers face increasing pressure to become more en-vironmentally sustainable.
The framework proposals have been welcomed by farmers and conservationists alike, with the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) hailing it as a “step in the right direction”.
Speaking as the framework was
published, Mr Poots said: “Farming has changed significantly over the past 100 years, with changing methods and investment in technologies across differing sect-
“It is therefore very apt in this Centenary Year that we embark upon the development of farming support policies which target actions to meet our local priorities and needs much more effectively for the foreseeable future.
“Business as usual for many farms will not be an option. The future is about delivering both food and environmental outcomes in a sustainable way.
“Our farmers are up for the challenge and, indeed, many have already invested in green technology and embraced envir-onmentally-friendly farming pract-
The Framework has four targets:
n Increasing productivity on farms;
n Ensuring environmental sus-tainability;
n Improving economic resilience;
n Having a responsive supply chain – which will be underpinned by a set of bespoke measures.
Mr Poots continued: “My ult-imate aim is to ensure that Northern Ireland takes full ad-vantage of the opportunity to develop a sustainable agricultural industry in which all farmers are able to make best use of the assets at their disposal and build a legacy of which they can be proud.
“This will be underpinned by a set of bespoke measures that will ensure the delivery of productive, profitable, environmentally sus-tainable, resilient and supply chain focused outcomes tailored for Northern Ireland.”
He added: “All stakeholders with an interest in food production and land use must be involved in the co-design of new measures and interventions.
“This will ensure that we have the right measures to boost efficiency and resilience whilst enabling a decrease in the agri-food industry’s environmental footprint and creating the means to enhance our natural assets and address climate change.”
In conclusion, he added: “This framework will form the basis of ongoing discussions with industry and stakeholders as my officials develop policy proposals, on which I intend to consult in the autumn. I look forward to engaging with all those in the farming industry as we move forward with my vision for its future.”
The UFU says farmers must now be equipped with the right tools to move forward with a new agricultural policy.
President Victor Chestnutt said:
“The publication of the Agri-cultural Policy Framework Port-folio for NI is a step in the right direction for local farming. We want to work in partnership with government to ensure a predictable and manageable tran-
sition process to support the development of a productive, profitable and progressive farm-ing industry as we move forward.
“As farmers, we need to be equipped with the right tools to be able to meet the growing demand for food both at home and abroad whilst also protecting the environment and meeting the demands of climate change.
“Our NI farmers and growers are a vital part of rural economies for various reasons. They pro-vide jobs, drive growth in food production and diversified in-dustries, including renewable energy and tourism – they need to be supported.
“At the very least, we need to maintain the existing level of support for investment in farming. This is crucial to provide a sufficient delivery implementation transition giving individual farm businesses the necessary time to adapt to a new overarching domestic policy for agriculture.
“Farmers also need flexibility to be granted by government to give them the best chance to adapt a common policy framework to the different regional needs of farming across NI.”
Commenting on the Framework, conservation charity RSPB NI also highlighted the importance of farmers being financially rewarded for meeting environmental targets going forward.
John Martin, Head of Policy and Advocacy, said: “The Future
Agriculture Policy Framework rightly recognises that sus-tainable agriculture has a central role to play addressing the nature and climate emergency. At the RSPB NI, we believe it is vitally important that farmers get financially rewarded for addressing environmental issues and will continue to work in partnership to deliver more nature for the benefit of everyone.”