Northern Ireland’s two largest farm organisations have joined forces to host on-farm meetings for politicians.
MLAs in rural constituencies will be invited by the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) and the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA) to a local farm.
This will allow members of both organisations to highlight their concerns with the proposed Climate Change Private Members Bill.
A 'net zero' target for greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions by 2045 is supported by many MLAs. But the farming lobby believes most have failed to grasp the impact this legislation would have on farmers and rural communities.
The UFU and NIAPA will use the on farm meetings to underline this threat and ensure MLAs are aware of the consequences of supporting the bill.
UFU president Victor Chestnutt said:
“The net zero by 2045 target would mean an 80%+ reduction in livestock numbers, putting at least 13,000 on-farm jobs at risk.
“This is not acceptable. It is time for MLAs supporting this bill to tell farmers why they are ignoring independent advice and the threat to thousands of jobs and family farms.”
The UFU said it understands and accepts the need for climate change legislation, with farmers in the front row of risk from inaction.
But it deems the private member’s bill, introduced at Stormont by Green Party leader Clare Bailey MLA, as "unacceptable" claiming that it could wipe out agriculture and rural communities.
The UFU added that it is not supported by "any credible evidence" and therefore cannot deliver a fair or just transition.
“I will not stand back and listen to accusations that farmers lack ambition when it comes to climate change,” Chestnutt added.
“The Executive's climate change plan would bring significant change to farms, but it is evidence based and recognises carbon leakage concerns from exporting production."
He added that this was why it is important MLAs hear from farmers in their constituencies about the damage they feel the Private Member’s Bill would cause.
“As farmers, we will continue to play our part in climate action. We are up for that challenge, but it must be fair. We cannot be forced out of business by ill-thought out legislation.”
NIAPA chairman James Lowe said:
“Local consumers want meat and dairy products. Removing local livestock farming would simply lead to imports from countries where emissions and environmental standards are lower.
“We would simply be exporting our environmental problems with no benefit to global warming. As an industry we are committed to lowering emissions, but it is vital farmers’ efforts are supported by fair and well thought out legislation.
"That has to be around a balanced pathway to net zero that does not destroy farming and rural communities.”
The UFU and NIAPA say MLAs must recognise the scale of the challenge their constituents face, and enter into a proper debate without hiding behind party positions.
On that basis both organisations say they expect politicians to respond positively to these meetings.
A union spokesperson confirmed that the meetings will get underway on Friday, November 26, 2021 and will continue through until January 2022.