DAERA Minister Edwin Poots MLA and DAFM Minister Charlie McConalogue TD spent a day at the Devenish Group’s ‘Lands at Dowth’ Research and Heritage Farm in County Meath, Ireland, to hear how the farm has developed over the last seven years given its sensitive environmental location within the UNESCO World Heritage site.
Also in attendance were Victor Chestnutt, President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), Wesley Aston, CEO UFU, Brian Rushe, Deputy President of The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and Geraldine O’Sullivan, IFA Environment & Forestry Policy Executive.
Speaking after the visit, Minister Poots said: “As Government and the agri-food industry in Northern Ireland embark on a number of initiatives to address key environmental challenges I welcomed the opportunity to meet with Minister McConalogue and farming groups at Devenish’s farm to see and hear how they have developed techniques to meet current challenges, particularly in a UNESCO World Heritage site.
“The core objective of the Agricultural sector is to produce high quality food. If the Northern Ireland farming industry is to remain viable then it must outperform its competitors from a productivity perspective. However these gains must be achieved in balance with environmental sustainability.
“In today’s world, farmers need to farm in a way that is environmentally sustainable. Around 70% of land in Northern Ireland is devoted to agriculture so whether it be air quality, water quality, biodiversity, general land or soil management, agriculture has a very significant impact on the environment, and this can be both positive and negative.
“Ammonia emissions are a significant challenge for the industry and my Department, as well as a threat to the sustainability of the sector. But it is a challenge which is surmountable. We need to reduce ammonia emissions by implementing technologies and other measures on farms. Farmers have already begun this transformation through their uptake of technologies such as Low Emission Slurry Spreading Equipment (LESSE). Continuing this change will need support and I hope that this can come from both government and the wider supply chain. My department has developed a series of proposals for ammonia reduction and we will be consulting on these soon.
“DAERA is leading in the development of a multi-decade Green Growth Strategy and Climate Action Plan for Northern Ireland, in partnership with other Departments, Local Government and stakeholders from across the business and voluntary sectors. The outcome will be a framework of programmes which will help deliver a resilient recovery through a greener, low carbon and circular economy for Northern Ireland.”
Owen Brennan, Executive Chairman of Devenish, said: “It has been a pleasure welcoming both Minister Poots and Minister McConalogue to our Global Innovation Centre and research farm in Dowth, Co. Meath.
“As well as being a focal point for farmers, researchers, policy makers and wider society, sustainability has been – and always will be – an integral part of our business. It was a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase the work that we are doing on climate smart farming, biodiversity, economics, and human health for the benefit of the wider food supply chain, the whole way from soil right through to society.
“The island of Ireland is recognised on an international level as being a wholesome and healthy food producer. We are confident that our innovative research will help ensure it continues to lead the way in sustainability, not only for the local agri-food sector, but right across the globe.”