Stormont agriculture committee chair, Tom Elliott MLA has indicated that new governments can be slow to act when it comes to ‘splashing the cash’.

“Making lots of additional funding commitments will not be a new government’s priority. This will tend to come later on within an administration’s term of office,” Elliott said but added:

“This is an issue that farming and food in Northern Ireland should take account of as the sectors work through the best options in terms of dealing with the new Labour government.”

However, Elliott fundamentally recognises the need for agriculture in Northern Ireland to secure long-term support funding from Westminster.

“We are talking about a ten-year period to deliver a strong degree of stability across the industry,” the Stormont agriculture committee chair added.

Currently, there are no funding measures in place for the agricultural sectors in the north. The post-Brexit support arrangements ended as soon as the 2024 UK general election was called.  

Government funding

Meanwhile, Elliott is calling for immediate clarification on the availability of a just transition fund in NI.

This relates to the introduction of bespoke measures contained within the Northern Ireland Climate Change Act and the responses required to these across society as a whole.

“We already know that it will require up to £2.7 billion of funding for all government departments to meet their climate change commitments up to 2027.

“And, as of yet, there has been no confirmation of these monies being made available,” he said.

Farming businesses in Northern Ireland will also require access to specific funding measures if they are to meet their climate change obligations, according to Elliott.

“The inclusion of methane inhibitors in ruminant rations is a case in point. The use of these new products will come at a considerable expense for farm businesses,” he said but added:

“Currently, there is no sign of the processers or food retailers recognising such investments on the part of dairy and beef farmers. So, government will have to step up to the plate in this regard.”

Meanwhile, Stormont Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Andrew Muir will meet with members of the agriculture committee over the coming days.

Issues on the agenda will include plans to control algal blooms on Lough Neagh and the evolution of bovine tuberculosis (TB) control and eradication measures.

“The meeting will provide committee members with an opportunity to secure clear indications regarding the minister’s priorities for agriculture during the period ahead,” Elliott said.