Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s Agriculture Liaison Group meets DAERA Minister

20th October 2020

The challenges and hardship experienced by agri-food businesses in the district were highlighted by members of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s Agricultural Liaison Group (ALG) during a recent online meeting with the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Mr Edwin Poots MLA.

Members took the opportunity to raise concerns around issues such as: the need for the continuation of financial support for local farmers in light of Covid-19 and EU Exit; the need for the promotion of our quality agricultural produce and protections against the potential for cheap, low quality imports and climate change, environmental matters and their impact on the rural community.

Responding to these issues, Minister Poots indicated that the UK Government has provided a commitment that existing farm payments will continue for the life of this Parliament, ie, to 2024, and the Minister was working to develop appropriate levels of support beyond that timeframe.  He noted that DAERA was lobbying extensively with the UK Government, through the EU negotiations, to achieve relaxations on the issue of State Aid and he also advised that DAERA had made a strong case to the for the need to oppose the introduction of low quality food exports.  The opportunity to sell the local quality produce story to the national and international markets was recognised by the Minister as an opportunity. Minister Poots also referenced the work of DAERA in progressing the development of both a TB Strategy and an Ammonia Strategy. He advised that he hoped to bring these forward in the near future.  The Minister further acknowledged that, while climate change and environmental targets would be challenging, there were opportunities ​to work with the agricultural sector to apply innovative new approaches which would bring sustainable benefit to businesses and communities.

The Minister ​concluded by advising he hoped to be able to visit the district and the agricultural sector to see at first hand the local agri-food businesses and communities ​following the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.

Welcoming the Minister’s assurances and contributions, Councillor Allan Rainey, Chairman of the Agricultural Liaison Group, said:

“At this time of uncertainty, the assurance that funding ​is ​in place up to 2024 is to be welcomed.  I look forward to receiving further information on the Department’s proposals to work with the industry to secure local jobs through the sustainable growth of our agricultural sector and to secure the enhancement of our local natural heritage”.