Extra £15.5m funding for agri-food sector - Poots tells Balmoral Show

Northern Ireland’s farm businesses are set to benefit from an additional £15m, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has announced today.

By Edwin Poots MLA

Lagan Valley

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Speaking to key industry stakeholders at a reception at the Balmoral Show, Minister Poots said the extra cash would be paid out next month.

“I’m pleased to announce today that I have decided to supplement the Basic Payment Scheme budget by £15.49 million this year. This means that each farm business will see the value of their payments increase by 6.29% or approximately £800. This will be a welcome boost and is vitally important given the ongoing increases in the cost of farm inputs,” announced Minister Poots.

Today’s boost comes on top of a permanent 4.3% uplift in BPS payments worth £8m, which the Minister announced last year.

He also told guests that his recently published Future Agricultural Policy Framework Portfolio document was the single most important agricultural policy development in the past 50 years. Minister Poots said: “We can be truly proud of what has been achieved in agri-food over the past 100 years. Today our produce can be found anywhere from Dungannon to Dubai, Fortnum and Mason to our newest pop up farm shop just around the corner. I want to build on that success and provide a solid foundation for the next 100 years of farming.

“In August, I published a Future Agricultural Policy Framework Portfolio document, setting out my vision for the future direction of farming support. This is the single most important agricultural policy development in the past 50 years.

“I want to continue to support the willingness of our farmers and growers to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of their businesses, including through on-farm investment. To date, my Department has offered £43m in grant support under the Farm Business Improvement Scheme – Capital.”

Turning to the NI Protocol he said he had made every possible representation to ensure the UK and EU decision makers fully understand the consequences of the current arrangements. Minister Poots told stakeholders: “Alongside a global pandemic, this year my Department also had the challenge of maintaining the flow of agri-food goods, plants and animals from Great Britain to Northern Ireland through our ports, following the unacceptable and unworkable nature of the NI Protocol.

“It is clearly evident that current arrangements are disrupting our normal trade processes, creating barriers to the free movement of goods, including plants, trees, cereal seeds, pets as well as breeding livestock within the UK, and placing unnecessary and unacceptable burdens on both my Department and businesses alike, and I can assure you that I have made every possible representation to ensure that UK and EU decision makers fully understand the consequences of the existing arrangements.”

The Minister also touched on Climate Change in his address and said: Climate change is an issue which causes many farmers concern. Well-meaning but ill thought solutions threaten the viability of our agri-food industry. To wipe out 30% of our manufacturing industry, our largest exports, a £5 billion industry employing over 100,000 people is lunacy. Farming with investment and support can continue to provide food for growing world demand in harmony with the environment.

“To meet our commitments to reduce emissions and tackle climate and environmental challenges, I have prioritised the development of a Green Growth Strategy, which my Department is leading on, on behalf of the Northern Ireland Executive.

“I intend to publish a draft strategy for consultation in the near future to align with the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26), with a final agreed strategy to be in place for March 2022.

“An integral element of this strategy must include using waste streams from agriculture to provide energy and at the same time tackle other environmental challenges has real potential.”

Minister Poots concluded that agriculture in Northern Ireland has a positive future.

“The industrial revolution played a huge part in our economic prosperity, the future is an evolution in green agriculture through innovation.

“As we have proven over the last 100 years, agriculture is adaptive and resilient to change. The next 100 years will be no different. My role is to encourage, even drive the agenda and support the next revolution.”

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