Reducing carbon footprint is key says Poots as £15m boost for farmers announced

If we don’t produce the food, Brazil will.

The opening day of this yearâ€TMs  Balmoral Show on Wednesday.
 Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
PACEMAKER PRESS BELFAST 22/09/2021 The opening day of this yearâ€TMs Balmoral Show on Wednesday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

That was the very direct message delivered by Northern Ireland’s farm minister Edwin Poots as he took in the sights and sounds of Day One at Balmoral Show 2021.

This year’s event takes place against the backdrop of a growing clamour for farming in Northern Ireland to actively address the challenge of climate change and to make environmental sustainability an absolute priority for the industry moving forward.

While acknowledging that local emissions from agriculture have increased since 1990, Poots confirmed that food production levels had increased significantly during the same period.

Sisters Clodagh and Eimear McGovern. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

He added: “Farmers in Northern Ireland can feed 10m people. We are an export orientated industry with GB our main market

“Consumption in the UK is heavily dependent on the food produced here in Northern Ireland and this needs to be recognised.

“But massive change will be required within the farming and food sectors. Making this happen will require investment by the industry itself and courtesy of the public purse.

“If we are simply to reduce food production levels here, people in England will still need to eat.

“Such a scenario will lead to an increase in food imports from like Brazil, an approach that will actually increase the carbon footprint of the food produced in the UK.”

According to the farm minister, local farmers can reduce the carbon footprint of the food they produce.

He explained: “We know how to achieve this objective. It’s now a question of investing in the production systems and new technologies that will make this happen.”

Commenting specifically on the significance of Balmoral Show and the role of the various local farming shows in providing a shop window for farming and food, Poots said: “We have been working closely with the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society and the local show associations to deliver support.

“Obviously Balmoral is a showcase for Northern Ireland. I want to ensure that the Society remains viable.

“If it can be demonstrated that Covid has had a major impact on the activities of the organisation, then a request for specific support will be considered.

“This approach has already been taken with those other agri food bodies that have been impacted by Covid. And the same principle holds, where the local shows are concerned.”

At yesterday’s show Minister Poots announced a £15m boost for farmers to be paid out next month: “I’m pleased to announce 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.”

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

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says the £15.49million that will be added to the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) for 2021, will provide a major boost to farmers across Northern Ireland.

UFU president Victor Chestnutt said: “It will see individual farm business payments rising by 6.29 percent, which is an average of approximately £800. This is additional to the similar but permanent 4.3 percent BPS uplift worth £8million, that the DAERA Minister announced last year.

“Farmers have endured various challenges over the last eighteen months particularly with the ongoing rise of input costs.

“The decision taken by the DAERA Minister to provide this extra support will be a much needed and major boost, helping to sustain family farm businesses across NI.”