UFU ‘confident’ in McIlveen as it reveals list of issues to address

Michelle McIlveen replaced Michelle O'Neill as Agriculture Minister
Michelle McIlveen replaced Michelle O'Neill as Agriculture Minister

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has outlined a long list of issues which it wants the new Agriculture Minister to address.

Michelle McIlveen, DUP MLA for Strangford, was revealed this week as the replacement for outgoing minister Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein MLA for Mid Ulster.

She takes on the role at a trying time for much of the Province’s farming community, with strong pressure on prices received for dairy produce.

UFU president Barclay Bell said it is “confident that the new minister will live up to commitments by the DUP during the election campaign to deliver for rural communities”.

He said: “Michelle McIlveen takes on the agriculture brief at a time when the industry is under extreme financial pressure.

“This makes the job a big challenge – but at the same time there is considerable scope for a new minister to deliver.”

He laid out a long list of issues, which included “easing the path of young people into the industry, opening new markets and ensuring the direct Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments farmers rely on reach them speedily” – as well as payment of the emergency assistance scheme to farmers affected by last winter’s flooding.

In the event that the UK votes to leave the European Union on June 23, she could have a major task on her hands working out a replacement for the EU’s CAP payments.

Her department has previously told the News Letter that “there are no contingency plans in relation to payments currently made under the CAP in the event of a British withdrawal”.

The department she heads used to be known as the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD).

It is now called the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development (DAERD), as part of a large-scale shake-up aimed at cutting the number of Stormont departments from 12 to nine.