Balance needed in use of farmland – Lockhart

DUP Westminster Agriculture Spokesperson Carla Lockhart has said the increased focus on planting woodland to offset carbon emissions must not result in small family farms being priced out of land purchases.

Carla Lockhart said: “Ambitious targets are being set to reduce carbon emissions and to do that there is a programme to plant trees right across Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. We also see more and more private enterprise now purchasing land to plant trees. While we all need to be cognisant of our responsibilities to the planet, we must also remember that the land is also there to support productive farming, producing food that we need to survive.

“We need to be wary that in the push to plant trees, we do not stop the growth of farming by restricting land purchases to those behind environmental schemes. With the price of timber also increasing substantially, we know that private enterprise and investors are seeking to purchase existing forest schemes from farmers. While these purchases are being advised against by many forestry experts, they also show that a focus – and substantial sums of money – are being put towards this whole industry.

“Government needs to recognise this and ensure the marketplace for farmland is not completely dominated to the detriment of small family farms seeking to grow their farm and food production output but cannot afford to match the buying power of companies or investors. Balance must be found.“

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