Colin Smith takes over the role as chief executive of the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) at a time of significant change for the beef and sheep sectors in Northern Ireland.

The period ahead will see significant change in the way that support is made available to the ruminant sectors.

The implementation of Northern Ireland’s climate change legislation and the accompanying rollout of programmes, such as the carbon footprinting programme, will mean that farmers will need support to adjust to any associated impacts of these changes.

This is to ensure the long-term profitability of the sector.

Additionally, the challenge of maximising market outlet opportunities for Farm Quality Assured beef and lamb from Northern Ireland will always remain a priority.

Operationally, LMC finds itself in the position of a recently-appointed board, and a newly-appointed chief executive interfacing with a newly-appointed agriculture minister, Andrew Muir.

Strategic plan

Colin Smith has indicated that he sees this as an opportunity as he settles into his new role and, as he is quick to point out, one issue will take priority over the coming weeks, being the development of a new, three-year strategic plan for LMC.

He said: “The commission’s current plan runs its length at the end of March, and with a new board now in place, we have been working hard to ensure a new three-year vision is agreed for the commission.

“It is not a case of the LMC being prescriptive, where this issue is concerned – the job of the board and the commission staff is to secure an agreed way forward, centred on the views and recommendations expressed by all of our key stakeholder groups.

“This will include primary producers, the processing sector and all other stakeholder organisations, including the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), with a role in delivering a sustainable future for Northern Ireland’s cattle and sheep industries.”

The Farm Quality Assurance Scheme

The Farm Quality Assurance Scheme (FQAS) is, in many ways, the cornerstone of many LMC operations.

With over 11,500 members, FQAS is established as an integral aspect of the beef and lamb sector in Northern Ireland.

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The new chief executive of the LMC said that “it will continue to be a key area of work going forward as we build upon the strong foundations in place”.

This will include working proactively with stakeholders to address some of the biggest challenges facing the beef and lamb sectors at the present time.

Education and consumer promotions

This year will see the LMC celebrate 25 years of its education  programme.

Smith continued: “It’s highly encouraging to see the sustained positive growth we have achieved in this area.

“LMC now delivers in the region of 500 demonstrations per year, reaching around 10,000 pupils.

“Branching out to provide cookery demonstrations and supporting resources to primary schools is a relatively new area for LMC. The initiative was launched fully in 2022, following a successful pilot the year prior.

“We look forward to the return of our primary programme this spring, and the forthcoming launch of a recipe book tailored specifically to meet the educational needs of key stage two pupils.”