The new Northern Ireland Executive has been called upon by Farmers for Action (FFA) to adopt the measures contained within a proposed Farm Welfare Bill.
The contents of the envisaged legislation have already been discussed by members of the previous agriculture committee at Stormont.
FFA’s coordinator William Taylor commented: “On the basis of the new Stormont Speaker officially recognising the relevance of the bill, it could be fully enacted as legislation within 12 months.
“FFA will be calling for an immediate meeting with the new farm minister to discuss the many challenges facing local agriculture at the present time.”
According to Taylor, the Farm Welfare Bill is designed to prevent damage to the welfare of farming families by making provision for the prices of farm produce.
It specifically references the appointment of a Fair Farm Gate Pricing Panel, the members of which will oversee the compilation and maintenance of the relevant prices paid back to primary producers.
Taylor further explained: “This bill has been developing since 2013 and was virtually ready to go when Stormont fell in 2016. When Stormont reconvened in 2020 again the bill was ready to go and then COVID-19 struck.
“However, all these events have allowed the bill to be honed to suit whatever the world can throw at farming families and never more so than now.”
He continued: “Back in 2010 the Commission for Rural Communities confirmed that a quarter of UK family farmers were living below the poverty line.
“The commission was subsequently moth-balled. But considering other downward agricultural trends in farm employment and income this number is likely to be much worse today.”
Taylor explained that the Farm Welfare Bill is not anti-competitive in either a European and Westminster context.
He also believes its enacting by Stormont could well create will 10,000 to 20,000 new jobs across Northern Ireland in a very short space of time.
“The proposed legislation would also serve to keep out imports of beef from countries such as Australia and Brazil,” Taylor commented.
“From a climate change perspective alone, it makes no sense to import food that is already in abundance locally from half way around the world.
““FFA was established to deliver sustainable prices for farmers throughout Northern Ireland.
“Our farm welfare bill addresses this issue from two fundamental directions: food security is one, the other relates to a comprehensive response on behalf of the entire farming industry to climate change,” Taylor concluded.