This week has seen the publication of the much anticipated resilience report into the future of Northern Ireland’s agricultural shows (not including Balmoral Show).

The work was commissioned by former agriculture minister Edwin Poots with Royal Welsh Show Association chief executive Aled Rhys Jones the man in charge of the project.

But no sooner had the final report been published than the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) effectively moth-balled it.

In a communication to the Northern Ireland Shows’ Association (NISA), DAERA officials made the point that funding is not available to fund any of the recommendations put forward by Rhys Jones.

This week has also seen DAERA confirm that funding is not available to allow it support any of the local agricultural shows taking place in 2023.

Agricultural shows

The Royal Welsh Show Association representative was asked to look at ways by which DAERA could strategically fund local agricultural shows into the future.

He put forward two options in this regard. The first centred on the core funding of all the show societies.

Within this model, monies would be distributed equally to support their running costs. The core funding would also be linked to a set of outcomes, in line with the strategic priorities of DAERA.

Examples of such outcomes could include: The introduction of new competitions to recognise environmental skills and/or sustainable farming practices; displays of new equipment and technology to improve productivity on farms; initiatives linking food and farming.

Other envisaged outcomes include the improvement of supply chain integration; educational content and dedicated areas at shows helping to inform the public about farming and food production.

The core funding would also ensure the highest standards of animal health and welfare plus commitment efforts to lower the carbon footprint of shows.

Funding model

Rhys Jones proposed a funding model which would see DAERA commit core funding in the region of £10,000 per show association.

The second funding option looked at the introduction of a two-tier funding model. This would comprise a core funding element. This would allow shows to be supported on an equitable basis, in order to support their running costs.

A second layer of additional funding would be open to individual applications to support targeted initiatives, competitions or activities that align with DAERA’s strategic priorities and drives innovation at shows.

The department could offer a list of possible funding items to choose from, alongside the ability for shows to submit their own ideas, that are in line with the broader objectives.

The fund could also be open to multi-year projects, subject to the necessary reporting and management.

Assuming the budget was split 50/50 between tier one and tier two, that would enable core funding of approximately £5,000 per show, with a further fund of £100,000 open to individual applications.

Some sort of cap and scoring criteria would need to be developed to assess each application.

However, should the total budget be in the region of £100,000, consideration may be given to offering circa £3,000 per show as core funding and reducing the tier two funding pot to approximately £50,000.