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Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots has visited the farm of UFU President, Mr Victor Chestnutt, to see for himself some of the range of positive environmental measures that have been put in place.

The UFU President was delighted to host the visit of the Minister on his farm just outside Bushmills, along with Vice Presidents David Brown and William Irvine.

Victor, who has been an enthusiastic supporter of incorporating environmental measures into his farm business and is a member of his local Environmental Business Development Group facilitated by CAFRE said: “Stock comes first on this farm, but there is always something that can be done to address the environmental challenges facing all of us within the farming industry. We’ve put in a range of measures to contribute to meeting these challenges, including solar panels, heat exchangers and low emission slurry spreading. These can all help to reduce costs, but other important measures such as planting trees, hedges and protecting water quality come at a price and farmers need to be adequately and flexibly supported to deliver these.”

Welcoming the opportunity to see first-hand the measures introduced at the farm, Minister Poots said: “I’d like to thank Victor and his family for their kind invitation. It’s really encouraging to see the impressive range of measures he has taken with support from DAERA schemes such as the Small Woodland Grant Scheme, the Environmental Farming Scheme and the Farm Business Improvement Scheme. The fact that he has involved younger members of the family to help plant the trees will provide them with a lasting environmental legacy as well as fond memories in years to come.”

The Minister continued: “I was pleased to see the first positive outcomes from the Small Woodland Grant Scheme which my Department set up last year, as well as the hedging and watercourse fencing delivered by the Environmental Farming Scheme, which were worth over £15m to the industry last year. The visit allowed the opportunity for important discussion on issues surrounding the payment rates and timing and the flexibility of some schemes. As I’ve mentioned previously, following Brexit, we now have an opportunity to develop an agricultural support framework portfolio which will be better suited to local needs. Co-design, involving organisations such as the UFU, farmers and environmental stakeholders will be key in the development process.”

The Minister concluded: “I’m pleased to announce that I have secured funding for a fifth and sixth tranche of the Environmental Farming Scheme, the fifth intake of the Wider Scheme will open on the 16 August for 4 weeks and I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t joined the Scheme to look at the options available and consider making an application. The Small Woodland Grant Scheme is currently open for applications.”