Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) president, Victor Chestnutt, has confirmed that he will take farmers on to the streets if MLA Clare Bailey's Climate Change Bill (No.1) succeeds at Stormont.

The north Antrim man said that he would "not stand idly by" and allow large swathes of Northern Ireland's livestock industry to be decimated by what he regards as proposed legislation that is not grounded in scientific fact.

There is also a second Climate Change Bill (No. 2), which was compiled by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) currently progressing through the Stormont Assembly.

Previously, agriculture minister Edwin Poots acknowledged concerns about two bills passing through the Northern Assembly at the same time and explained that he had instructed his staff to work with those behind Climate Change Bill (No. 1) to reach a “compromise”.

Chestnutt told Agriland: "Don't get me wrong, the farming industry fully recognises that it must respond in a very constructive manner to the challenge of climate change.

"But I won't stand for the introduction of legislation that will destroy so many thousands of jobs in rural areas for no good reason. And this is what's coming down the track if Clare Bailey's bill is accepted in its current form."

UFU confirms rise in cost of inputs

Reflecting on the union's current policy priorities, Chestnutt confirmed that all farm input costs are rising at the present time.

"I think this will refocus the industry," he further explained.

"Farmers will be encouraged to minimise their use of inputs as they look to the future. This will entail the greater use of soil testing, monitoring pH values and looking at the inclusion of clovers in grassland swards."

Referring to his own farm, Chestnutt pointed out that he is currently growing more grass than ever. This is down to making better use of slurries.

Chestnutt continued: "We will all learn to do things differently moving forward. But this is happening against the recent uplift in farm gate prices.

"If it's just a case of inflation kicking in across the board, then farmers should be in a position to take more off the farm than they are taking in."

He added: "The current hike in input costs is concerning. But we all need to find smarter ways of working," he continued.

Consumer impact

The UFU president also believes consumers now recognise that they will have to pay more food into the future.

"This is inevitable. I think we are coming into a period of stronger inflation. In the past this never did farmers much harm," he said.

"Double digit interest rates would not be a pleasant prospect. But there seems to be a train of thought doing the rounds at the present time to the effect that interest rates will settle at around 5% per annum in the medium to long-term," he concluded.