Farm Welfare Bill continues to make progress

Northern Ireland Farm Groups’ William Taylor, pictured, has confirmed to Farming Life that the organisation’s Farm Welfare Bill is continuing through its required stages at Stormont, writes Richard Halleron.

Saturday, 13th March 2021, 9:37 am
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Northern Ireland Farm Groups’ William Taylor pictured, has confirmed to Farming Life that the organisation’s Farm Welfare Bill is continuing through its required stages at Stormont, writes Richard Halleron.

He commented: “The potential impact of the legislation is now being assessed by the Stormont Assembly’s Research and Information Service. A report on the matter will be formally presented to the members of the Agriculture Committee.

“Separately, DAERA officials will give oral evidence to committee members, again regarding the impact of the Bill.”

Currently the Bill is supported by Belfast Hills Farmers, Farmers For Action UK, Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association and Northern Ireland Livestock Auctioneers Association.

Northern Ireland Farm Groups’ Sean McAuley added: “The Bill is resonating with many of our politicians because it highlights the stress that so many local farm families are under. Much of this is being generated on the back of the poor prices that farmers are receiving for their produce.

“Moreover, these problems are not unique to Northern Ireland, as the recent farm tragedies in France bear out.”

The Bill envisages the compilation of a Fair Farm Gate Prices Index. This will specify the lowest price to be paid for best-quality produce, across the entire gamut of agricultural commodities produced in Northern Ireland.

The Index will also specify a lowest price to be paid for produce of the lowest quality consistent with acceptability to the general wholesale market and compliance with legislation regulating produce for human consumption.

The Bill references the appointment of a Fair Farm Gate Pricing Panel, whose members will oversee the compilation and maintenance of the aforementioned Index. Finally, it will be an offence – under the terms of the draft - for a relevant person to buy listed produce from a farming business for a purchase price below the listed price.

But who is going to pay for all of this? According to William Taylor the funding will come courtesy of the supermarkets and the corporates within the farming and food sector re-distributing their profits back down the supply chain to primary producers.

He added: “The enacting of the Bill would also have a very beneficial impact on farmgate returns throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland.”

Taylor envisages independent consultants compiling the Fair Farm Gate Prices Index, the principle of which lies at the very heart of the draft Bill.