The new president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), David Brown, is calling for the immediate re-establishment of the Stormont Executive, after the completion of this week’s Stormont Assembly elections.

Northern Ireland goes to the polls tomorrow (Thursday 5).

According to Brown, the first item of business for the new administration at Stormont will be the distribution of the £300 million from Westminster some weeks ago to allow Northern Ireland cope with the current cost of living crisis.

“The previous farm minister, Edwin Poots, had indicated that £70 million of this fund could be drawn down to help farmers cope with the swinging increases in all input costs that have impacted on their businesses over recent months," Browne told Agriland.

“Farmers need this money now.”

In the event of an Executive not being formed in short order, the new UFU leadership team will be asking officials at the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to intervene on this matter.

Another possible way forward would be for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis MP, to activate the release of the £300 million.

“There is a bigger picture playing out here, and it’s this. It seems that large sums of unspent public money are being returned to Westminster on an annual basis from Northern Ireland," Browne continued.

“This shouldn’t be. Money that has been allocated to Northern Ireland by the Treasury in London should always be spent in full.

"If this is not the case, Westminster may well start actively reviewing the budgets set for Northern Ireland in the first place."

Food security issue for new Stormont Executive

The new UFU leader has noted that the European Union (EU) is now taking the issue of food security more seriously. He points to the introduction of the new Tillage Incentive Scheme and silage support package by the Irish government as examples of this developing trend.

“Unfortunately, this is not the case in the UK. The current Conservative government remains totally wedded to the forging of free trade deals that will see significant quantities of cheap food imported from around the world," Browne stated.

“Meanwhile the evolving farm policy framework in England and Wales will do nothing to improve food self sufficiency levels.”

As he looks to the future, David Brown regards the issue of food security as being of critical importance for the farming sectors in Northern Ireland.

“The world’s population continues to grow. The need to produce the food for all these people on a sustainable basis will be a fundamental global challenge during the period ahead,” he said.

“Farming in Northern Ireland can be part of the solution.

“But our agricultural sectors must be totally outward looking. And this means communicating with the public at large on a wide range of issues including environmental protection, animal welfare and conservation.

“One of the most significant achievements secured by my predecessor, Victor Chestnutt, was the attainment of a realistic bovine TB eradication policy in Northern Ireland," he added.

“One of my key priorities for the coming months will be to ensure that the new measures are fully implemented as quickly as possible.”