SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone believes the imminent collapse of the Stormont Executive and a subsequent election will result in the drying up of numerous funding streams for farming and rural communities in Northern Ireland.

“At the most recent meeting of the Stormont agriculture committee, I proposed that the committee demands a written briefing from the Minister giving assurances that throughout any political confusion and election, money from the EU and the block grant will continue to flow to keep our farms, agri-sector, environmental schemes and rural community interests afloat,” he said.

“Our farmers and vital agri-food sector have had to deal with serious difficulty arising from Brexit and falling farmgate prices, our rural communities are still reliant on government support and our environment is still vulnerable to flash floods and pollution.

“I am pleased that the Committee has backed my proposal and I now appeal to the Minister to provide these assurances as a matter of urgency.”

Our rural communities and businesses should not have to suffer because of a new manufactured crisis designed by the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Commenting on the latest political developments, Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) President Barclay Bell said that the UFU has always supported the principle of devolution and Northern Ireland having its own farm minister.

“We believe this delivers a better decision making process, regardless of the political party that holds the brief.

“On that basis we would like to see devolution restored and working properly, but recognises that events are being driven by mainstream politics, with which the UFU does not engage.

“In the context of crucial negotiations on farm support and trade after Brexit the need for local input in crucial decisions at a UK level is all the more important.”

A spokesman for DAERA in Belfast said the Minister remains in office and continues to fulfil her duties as before.

“Her decision making powers are confined to departmental issues which do not require Executive agreement. The work of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs continues as before.”