Farmers and agricultural groups in Northern Ireland have been urged to have their say on the Rural Needs Act consultation.

The consultation exercise, which is led by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), aims to inform a review of the list of bodies and persons set out in the Schedule to the Rural Needs Act (NI) 2016.

The Rural Needs Act (NI) 2016 was introduced in 2016 to ensure councils, government departments and public authorities give consideration to the needs of people in rural areas when making policy decisions.

The department is undertaking a review of the bodies and persons set out in the schedule and is interested in hearing the views of stakeholders on whether any amendments should be made.

Launching the consultation, Minister Poots said: “The Rural Needs Act is one of my department’s key rural policy tools.

"The act requires public authorities listed in the schedule to have due regard to the social and economic needs of people in rural areas when undertaking certain activities.

This is helping to deliver better outcomes for people in rural areas and will help make rural communities more sustainable. I am keen to hear the views of stakeholders to help inform this review.

The Animal Health and Welfare Stakeholder Forum is an industry group, established to facilitate consultation and engagement between the department and its key stakeholders.

Members of the relevant subgroup are:

  • Holstein UK - John Martin;
  • National Sheep Association (NSA) - Edward Adamson;
  • North of Ireland Veterinary Association (NIVA) - Aurelie Moralis;
  • NI Pork and Bacon Forum - Deirdre McIvor;
  • NI Poultry Federation - Margaret Hardy;
  • Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) - Geoff Thompson;
  • Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA) - Tim Kirby.

The group has worked with DAERA to develop the following five proposed animal health and welfare outcomes:

  • We keep our animals healthy and treat them well.
  • We have a competitive, innovative livestock industry that contributes to our economic prosperity.
  • We protect public health and our food from animal-related disease.
  • We take a sustainable approach to the farming of animals that respects the environment.
  • We have animal health and welfare safeguards that are widely recognised and trusted.

The consultation document can be accessed on the DAERA website. The closing date for responses is November 16, 2020.