Irwin meets DAERA Permanent Secretary

​DUP agriculture spokesperson, William Irwin MLA, met with Katrina Godfrey, the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, to discuss issues affecting the industry.
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Edwin Poots MLA and Michelle McIlveen also attended the meeting, held at Dundonald House last week.

Mr Irwin said the engagement with the Permanent Secretary was “very worthwhile” and provided an important opportunity to re-engage with the department on key issues.

Mr Irwin commented: “The discussions covered a very wide selection of issues including the costs of TB and the progress on reducing disease prevalence, the NI ammonia strategy and also the issue of the Climate Change Bill requirements.

William Irwin MLA (pictured) met with with Katrina Godfrey recently.William Irwin MLA (pictured) met with with Katrina Godfrey recently.
William Irwin MLA (pictured) met with with Katrina Godfrey recently.

“The issue of TB continues to be a very concerning issue in Northern Ireland, with current rates at the highest they have been at 10.2 per cent. This simply cannot continue, and especially so given the cost to the taxpayer of £53million per year and the very glaring fact that this money could be much better spent. The pathway, as set out by the previous Minister Edwin Poots MLA, in my opinion should be implemented as a matter of urgency.

“When we consider other areas that have seen success in reducing TB through co-ordinated and targeted measures, such as wildlife control, there is a real need for Northern Ireland to get to grips with this issue,” he added. “I speak to farmers regularly who are under TB herd restrictions and it is a very demoralising, stressful and costly experience for them.”

Mr Irwin continued: “The NI ammonia strategy is an important issue for our industry and with the consultation period now closed, there will be a focus on the direction of travel DAERA officials take with regards to targets and methods. The fact that all spreading must be undertaken by low emissions methods by 2026 is a looming burden and indeed the timeframes set out, in my view, are unrealistic.

“Issues such as a splash plate ban will create major issues for smaller farmers, as they will struggle to access contractor services for smaller portions of land.

“There must be some form of longer-term exemptions for smaller farmers given this reality and that will be something I will be lobbying on. The measures introduced by DAERA must not be allowed to make farming less viable for smaller operators.”

Discussions also centred around the requirements on climate change and emissions.

Mr Irwin said: “This is an area where I have been consistent on my warnings on the impact on our industry. The issue around the UK Climate Change Committee’s recommendations for a significant reduction in livestock numbers in order to meet net zero targets on emissions, is something that will be the subject of significant debate. Especially so given our province’s strong economic performance from agri-food and the implications of the net zero target on food production and land use.

He concluded: “I will be continuing to liaise with the department and the local farming community and thank the DAERA Permanent Secretary and officials for their time in discussing these topical issues.”