Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer believes that the Stormont Executive will be needed to support farm sustainability in Northern Ireland.

Moreover, he points to the refusal of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to enter the Executive as a key factor that hinders the attainment of this objective.

The DUP has refused to form a Stormont Executive since last May’s Assembly elections over what concerns it has in relation to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

McAleer was speaking after attending the recent EU Sustainable Dairy symposium.

“The symposium brought together government officials, industry experts, local farmers and included an insightful contribution from a Dutch farmer to discuss the dairy sectors pathway towards environmental and financial sustainability,” McAleer said.

“There were informative contributions from local farmers on what they are doing in terms of the ‘Agrecalc’ carbon calculator, soil analysis, mixed swards and better use of slurry to cut down on fertiliser costs.

“However, farmers need government support to help with this journey. It was highlighted that customers are increasingly demanding sustainable produce and our competitors in other countries and regions are ahead of us in this journey,” McAleer continued.

The Co. Tyrone-based MLA added that farmers in Northern Ireland are already “on the back foot” because of Brexit, the loss of EU funding and the spiralling cost of inputs.

“Having no [Stormont] Executive while civil servants are developing a future agriculture policy and Climate Action Plans is completely unacceptable,” he continued.

“With no functioning [Stormont] Assembly, it is difficult to see how targets can even be implemented given that it is a legal requirement of the Climate Change Act for targets to be agreed by the Assembly following a 16-week consultation.

“It was clear from the conference that the dairy industry is up for the sustainability challenge. But they need the support of government to do this. The Executive must get up and running again without further delay,” McAleer concluded.