The need for the Northern Ireland Farm Welfare Bill to be passed into law is greater than ever, according to Farmers for Action (FFA).

However, the organisation’s coordinator, William Taylor, said he fully recognises that nothing can happen to facilitate this development while the Stormont Executive remains moth-balled.

The proposed legislation has been a cornerstone of FFA policy for the past number of years.

“FFA was established some 20 years ago to deliver sustainable prices for farmers throughout Northern Ireland,” Taylor told Agriland.

“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.”

According to the FFA representative, it should be possible to have the proposed legislation passed into law within 12 months of Stormont being reinstated.

“Until recently, we thought this might happen in the run-up to Christmas. However, it now seems that we are looking at some date beyond the next Westminster election.”

Farm Welfare Bill

The Farm Welfare Bill envisages farmers being paid a price that takes full account of all input costs plus an agreed margin to deliver ongoing sustainability at farm levels.

All the main food commodities produced in Northern Ireland would be covered in the scope of the legislation that is finally enacted.

“The 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.”

Once legislated for in Northern Ireland, William Taylor believes that the Farm Welfare Bill will have a positive ripple effect on an all-island basis.

“The same principle holds where the rest of the UK is concerned,” he suggested.

The bill 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.

According to William Taylor the funding for all of this will come courtesy of the supermarkets and the corporates within the farming and food sector redistributing their profits back down the supply chain to farmers.

“Currently, the proposed legislation is resonating with many of our politicians because it highlights the stress that so many local farm families are under,” he said.

“Much of this is being generated on the back of the poor prices that farmers are receiving for their produce at the present time.”