Key issues affecting Northern Ireland’s farming community have been revealed ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections.
Cash flow difficulties as a result of ongoing price volatility tops the list in the Ulster Farmers’ Union’s Agriculture Manifesto – entitled ‘Difficult Times – But We Can Deliver’ – which was launched on Monday morning.
Other key issues in the manifesto include a fair operation of the food supply chain, access to finance, new market development, agri-food marketing, competitiveness, livestock improvement, land mobility/tenure, enhanced research and development and knowledge transfer, livestock and plant disease control programmes, the environment, farm safety, rural services, and the impact of welfare reform on hard-pressed farm families.
The union believes these are the areas candidates must commit to addressing if they wish to draw votes from the Province’s large rural community.
Speaking at the launch, UFU president Ian Marshall said: “It is essential politicians look at what can be done in the short term to ease this pressure on farm families, while agreeing to press a new agriculture minister and Executive to address longer term solutions, to bring stability back to farming.”
Farming and food are central to the local economy worth an estimated £5 billion and responsible for 100,000 jobs, many of which are in rural areas.
The union also highlighted potential to develop the industry, with estimates that with the right support and investment it could deliver up to 15,000 new jobs by 2020 and bring benefits to the entire local economy.
It is for that reason the UFU believes it is vital politicians continue to recognise the importance of the agri-food industry and agree to back its development.
Looking ahead, the UFU will be circulating copies of its manifesto more widely once the election candidates list has been finalised.
It will also be holding a hustings event for the UFU’s Executive Committee which comprises of union members across all sectors and from all parts of Northern Ireland, at Loughry College, Cookstown on Wednesday, March 30.