Agriculture Is The Heartbeat Of NI's Rural Community - Poots

Agriculture is the heartbeat of Northern Ireland's rural community and action is needed to ensure it continues to develop and maintain a viable profitable and environmentally sustainable agri-food industry.

This was the message of Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots, in his address to the 2022 Oxford Farming Conference, where he participated in a panel discussion on the future of agriculture, environment and rural policy across the four regions of the United Kingdom.

Minister Poots was joined on the panel by George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, England and Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Wales.

Minister Poots said: "Green Growth means using the move from a high to a low greenhouse gas emissions society to improve people's quality of life through green jobs and a clean, resilient environment. A consultation on the Executive's multi-decade draft Green Growth Strategy for Northern Ireland has recently closed and that strategy seeks to adopt a holistic approach to tackling the climate crisis in the right way by balancing climate action with the environment and the economy in a way that benefits everyone."

The 76th Oxford Farming Conference, held virtually this year, is the leading international conference held in the UK for farming and agribusiness. Its aim is to explore the different approaches being taken across the UK; the emphasis on promoting public goods as opposed to production, the need to address the biodiversity and climate challenges and the importance of supporting rural communities. The theme of this years' conference is 'Routes to Resilience'.

Continuing the Minister said: "Having left the EU, I now have a unique opportunity to redefine agricultural policy in Northern Ireland for the first time in almost 50 years and my aim is to embed a policy that is better suited to local needs and one that will provide for, and secure, long term sustainability within the whole industry. In August, I published the Future Agricultural Policy Framework Portfolio for Northern Ireland, setting out my vision for the future direction of farming support. In that, I stated that 'business as usual for many farms will not be an option' - higher productivity growth in our agri-industry, through science, innovation and knowledge transfer must be achieved in a way that is compatible with improving environmental sustainability.
News Image
"Many farmers are already investing in green technology and embracing environmentally-friending farming practices, but more needs to be done. We need to ensure that excess nutrients do not seep into our waterways, that ammonia emissions are reduced to restore the health of vulnerable habitats, we must end our reliance on fossil fuels and find less harmful ways of heating our homes and businesses and fuelling our vehicles, ensure that agriculture plays its fair share in our journey to net zero carbon and that biodiversity loss is halted and reversed."

Other subjects discussed during the debate included the development of new technologies such as gene editing, as well as issues surrounding the the supply chain and the future for the UK single market.

On the subject of potential future trade agreements, the Minister warned against the high level of risk these could pose to Northern Ireland and UK farmers, saying "The biggest impact on Northern Ireland producers from free trade agreements is the loss of GB market share given that Northern Ireland is a net exporter of agri-food goods and GB is our biggest market, accounting for around 70% by value of beef and sheep meat processed in NI.

"While there will be aspects of the new agreements that will benefit Northern Ireland exporters, I am concerned new deals will not provide adequate protection for UK agricultural producers. The UK and Australia Free Trade Agreement is of concern, in particular the size of the tariff rate quotas that have been agreed for beef and sheep products as these quotas are, in my view, too large to offer protection to domestic producers and after 15 years, there will be no quotas at all. I have similar concerns with dairy where tariff protection will be removed after five years."

Concluding, Minister Poots said: "My ambition is for Northern Ireland to be a world-class food region, recognised for its sustainability, quality, safety, authenticity and knowledge based approach. Looking towards COVID-19 recovery and the future, we also have an opportunity to transform our food system for future generations and assist the achievement of health, social, environmental and economic goals. There are significant challenges, but I believe there is also huge potential as we continue to innovate and think differently. With appropriately designed policy interventions and innovation, all of this can be achieved without compromising the economic viability of the farming/agri-food sector."

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

16 May 2022
UK Govt 'Will Do Its Part' To Help Restore Stormont
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in Belfast today, Monday 16 May, for emergency talks in an effort to break the ongoing deadlock at Stormont in the hopes of facilitating the formation of a new Executive.
05 May 2022
NI Has UK's Lowest Disposable Income
The average discretionary spending power of NI families fell to £127 per week in the first quarter of 2022 – 13.3% (almost £20 per week) less than the same period a year ago and £108 below the UK average of £235. The figures are revealed in Asda's latest Income Tracker report (March 2022) which is independently compiled by Cebr. The 13.
20 May 2022
Ulster University To Lead New £50m Data Innovation Hub
A new £50 million data innovation hub and testbed led by Ulster University will help UK manufacturers to boost their productivity and competitiveness.
13 June 2005
The 2005 Birthday Honours List for Northern Ireland
The full list of recipients of honours in the 2005 Birthday Honours list for Northern Ireland is as follows: Knighthood: Mr Hugh Orde OBE, Chief Constable, Police Service of Northern Ireland - for services to Northern Ireland. CBE: Mr Robert David Stewart Campbell, Belfast - For Political and public service.
21 February 2003
Union meeting to vote on future of rural schools
The leader of the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) is to address the NAS/UWT union on Friday night over the exodus of farm workers that is threatening the future of a number of rural schools across Northern Ireland.