Deputy First Minister addresses UFU AGM

Deputy First Minister Emma Little Pengelly paid tribute to the important role of Northern Ireland’s agricultural industry as she addressed the Ulster Farmers Union Annual General Meeting on Thursday.

By Emma Little-Pengelly MLA

Lagan Valley

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The Lagan Valley MLA said, “The agri-food sector is Northern Ireland’s biggest industry and it supports thousands of jobs in every corner of the Province. It is an industry we should all be very proud of. Farmers are an absolutely vital part of the industry and we must value and support our agricultural producers.

The last few months have been difficult, with sustained wet weather combined with month after month interest rates rises and deeply challenging farm-gate prices across poultry, grain and beef. Every farmer knows that the weather cannot be controlled, but it is important that government takes action in the areas where we can have an influence to make a difficult job easier if possible, and to support this essential industry.

My colleagues have been working closely with HM Government to see a final resolution to the supply of veterinary medicines. Work is continuing to secure a negotiated settlement on this vital area which is the outcome preferred by everyone, but it is important to remember the commitment given by Government to deploy any available flexibilities to safeguard supply in all scenarios.

More locally, challenging climate change act targets can only be advanced fairly and without unequal or disproportionate focus and burden on one sector alone. I am determined to stand up for our agri-food industry. There is a continued need too for urgent action to tackle Bovine TB which places an ongoing and unfair burden on farmers. Too many good animals lost to this appalling situation.”

In conclusion she added, “Whilst looking at the challenges, we must also look to the future and how the opportunity for technology, innovation and evolution of practices to drive the industry. That is particularly important to see the next generation of food producers continue the excellence that has become synonymous with our agricultural industry.”

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