Farmers for Action (FFA) has called for a doubling of the farm support budget in Northern Ireland, from £300 million to £600 million per year.

“This has to be a key driver of the general election debate over the coming weeks,” FFA spokesperson, William Taylor commented.

“Farm support budgets have not been changed since 2003, 20 years ago. If one factors in the impact of inflation over the subsequent two decades, this brings the farm budget for Northern Ireland up to £600 million on an annual basis.

“It is also critically important that all future farm support budgets are inflation proofed.”

In addition, Taylor wants to see food security put firmly on the agenda as a key debating point up to the July 4 polling date for the UK.

“Food security and climate change are the biggest challenges facing society as a whole today. Both issues are joined at the hip from a production agriculture and food perspective,” he continued.

“Making this a reality will require two things – farmers to be adequately supported by government with primary producers also receiving prices that take full account of their production costs.

“Farmers must have the opportunity to develop a margin within their businesses, which allows them to invest for the future.

Taylor cited the relevance of FFA’s Farm Welfare Bill in this context.

“It is the only form of proposed legislation that reflects the genuine needs of farmers. And the sooner it is introduced by the Stormont Assembly, the better.”

bTB in Northern Ireland

Turning to bovine Tuberculosis (bTB), Taylor confirmed an FFA delegation recently met with Northern Ireland chief veterinary officer, Brian Dooher, on this matter.

The FFA is expecting Northern Ireland’s agriculture minister, Andrew Muir, to make a major statement on a range of issues linked to bTB later in the autumn.

This may well include a formal announcement regarding the outcome of the recent public consultation on bTB compensation values.

As part of this process, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) officials referenced the possibility of compensation payments being reduced to 75% of a reactor animal’s market value.

“FFA will not accept any attempt on the part of DAERA to reduce bTB compensation values,” Taylor stressed.

Farming organisations in Northern Ireland believe that even the current bTB compensation measures are inadequate.

Specifically, they do not take account of the negative impact that reactor removals have on farm cash flows, according to FFA.