DAERA finds flaws in FFA’s proposed Farm Welfare Bill

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has found flaws in the approach proposed in the Farm Welfare Bill, currently under discussion at Stormont, to deliver guaranteed prices for local farmers.

A DAERA spokesperson said: “The Department is of the view that there are fundamental flaws with this attempt to guarantee a farm gate price above the market price that mean, it would be damaging to the interests of Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector.

“Rather than improving the position of NI farmers, this Bill would do the opposite by making NI produce uncompetitive in the GB market which is the most important market for our farmers.”

The spokesperson continued: “Furthermore the Bill would prohibit retailers in certain circumstances from purchasing food from GB or the EU, which would see the erection of barriers to trade.  This is not feasible or desirable and would create difficulties for food supply chains to NI retailers and for NI exports to those markets.  We live in a market economy where prices are determined by the market and not by the Government.

“We operate in a global marketplace where relative prices are important, and we maintain a competitive position in external markets because of our competitive pricing, standard and quality of our goods and our close proximity and unfettered access to the GB market.  

“The Department shares concerns about the outcome of trade negotiations with Australia but these cannot be mitigated by this Bill.”

DAERA presented its evidence, regarding the Farm Welfare Bill to a recent meeting of the Stormont agriculture committee. The proposed legislation has been put forward by NI Farm Groups, of which Farmers for Action (FFA) is a member.

FFA’s Sean McAuley commented: “The Department started off by acknowledging the concept of the Bill, then immediately pointed to problems with exports as a result of higher prices at the farm gate, supposedly leaving Northern Ireland uncompetitive and therefore facilitating cheaper imports. Much of this is unfounded.”

He continued: “MLAs were exceptionally good with their questions in response to the Department, pointing out that the UK government’s current drive for trade deals around the world will leave local farmers in a very bad position, to which the Department had no answer.

“The Department continued to give 20 reasons why not to implement the Bill and not one single reason why to put it in place.”

McAuley concluded: “If enacted, the proposed Farm Welfare Bill would create wealth, lift Northern Ireland’s job market and relieve rural poverty as well as lifting farm gate prices across these islands and further afield.”