Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen was west of the Bann last Thursday, visiting farms in the Strabane area.
The Minister visited the beef and dairy farm of Derick Donnell before travelling to the dairy farm of Ernie Colhoun.
She said she was pleased to begin 2017 in Co Tyrone, at the invitation of the Strabane Farming Group, to spend time on these family-run farms.
Miss McIlveen added: “Since taking office, it has been important for me to hear first-hand about the issues which impact upon farmers and the rural community. Visiting farm businesses is a great way to do this, and see today’s farmers in action.”
Among the topics discussed were the Farm Business Improvement Scheme – Capital, Bovine TB, Business Development Groups, and general state of dairy farming.
The Minister said: “This was a worthwhile opportunity to listen, to learn and to understand. Many of the concerns farmers have here in Strabane are common right across Northern Ireland.
“In particular, the agricultural businesses in this area are close to the border with the Republic of Ireland. The issue of Brexit is, understandably, high on the agenda.
“To this end, I have made, and continue to make, the case for Northern Ireland – at all levels – to ensure our interests are represented in the negotiations to leave the European Union.
“The year ahead will bring challenges and opportunities for the agri-food sector, but we are looking to the future with optimism. Our agricultural industry is hugely important to me and I am determined that Northern Ireland develops a globally competitive agri-food industry for future generations.”
The Minister also met with the Strabane Farmers Group – a collective made up of farmers from the wider area.
Miss McIlveen said: “As we look at the bigger picture of global economics, international trade and sectoral change, it is important not to lose sight of those on the ground. As an industry, agriculture is based on our farms and our farmers. They are the foundation and the frontline.
“Today, once again, I appreciate the warmth of the welcome I have received. I am pleased to take this opportunity to engage with farmers about the issues and concerns they have, and outline what my department is doing to assist them.