Farmer Focus: Daera’s agricultural vision is 42 pages of waffle

Harvest is complete. Yields and moistures were very good overall. Winter barley was only just average and winter wheat was good all round.

Graham and Extase, with their disease resistance characteristics, were the winners, producing yields of up to 12t/ha.

Oats were flat, flat, flat – but well worth gathering up, as yields averaged about 9.5t/ha.

See also: Cambs farmer happy to grow wheat for breakfast market

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Richard Orr
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As someone who cares about the future of our industry, I was interested to read Daera’s vision for the future of agriculture in NI.

I was disappointed with the 42 pages of waffle which could have been summed up in just two, but I took the following from it:

  1. You’ll have to manage your soil nutrients (probably tighter than before) to receive a flat rate resilience payment
  2. Livestock farmers will receive a headage payment
  3. Environmental improvements and carbon footprint reductions
  4. Support for technology and innovation
  5. Supply chain integration.

I took particular issue with the statements “productivity in UK agriculture has been consistently lower than that of competitors” and “if NI agriculture is to have a viable future as a trading sector, it must at least keep pace with productivity growth of its competitors and indeed out-perform them”.

I would challenge the minister to explain how we can treat it as a level playing field, given the scale, level of regulations and quality assurance we go through compared with many imported products which don’t meet our standards.

We jump through hoops to grow crops, only for the end product to be tipped into the same pile as non-assured and GM crops from goodness knows where.

Agriculture in NI could be transformed by improving the supply chain.

If the supply chain had to take on the carbon footprint of the products they buy, imports would become much less attractive – a win for the global environment.

Most importantly, food imports should meet the same criteria of our assurance programmes or, in necessary circumstances, be clearly labelled as NOT produced to our standards.

I’d love for the minister to explain how his crystal ball tells us we can be more productive and profitable while reducing inputs and taking on the additional costs required to meet carbon and environmental measures.

A business can only invest and innovate for the future if it makes enough profit in the first place.

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