The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has said politicians cannot afford to dismiss the importance of farmers in Northern Ireland and across the UK.

UFU president William Irvine has congratulated newly-elected Prime Minister Keir Starmer and welcomed the new Labour Party government, but said there was a lack of focus on agriculture during the General Election.

“Although many Northern Ireland political parties had agriculture policy at the heart of their campaigns, the few references to farmers or food security in the wider UK national debate was noticeable and concerning,” he said.

“With 670,000 people living in rural Northern Ireland, and the agri-food sector being the backbone of the rural economy, politicians cannot afford to dismiss the importance of farmers in Northern Ireland and across the UK,” he said.

Irvine said the union lobbied heavily during the election campaign to ensure its messages were heard and listened to.

It put forward three key asks including a future support and development budget, a sanitary and phytosanitary/veterinary agreement between the entire UK and EU and legislative targets for providing food and energy for the nation.

“Whilst the politics of Westminster may seem far away and Northern Ireland’s representatives may seem small against a total of 650 UK Parliament members, the vital role that our 18 NI MPs play in representing the voice of farmers in this arena is significant,” Irvine said.

“They are key to helping us deliver a sustainable and profitable future for all UK farmers.”

Safeguarding agri-food

Moving forward, Irvine said all political parties must work together to safeguard and develop the agri-food industry and support farmers to feed a growing population whilst addressing climate.

“Representing our members the UFU will begin lobbying efforts immediately, working closely with the new Prime Minister, Labour Party and MPs who have been elected into parliament,” he said.

“We will not shy away from calling out any party or political representative when their stance is unjust towards the farming community.

“However, we hope that our politicians will do what is right by our farm families and consumers, to help our agri-industry to thrive in this new parliamentary term.”