Return of Stormont assembly welcomed by the Nature Friendly Farming Network (NI)
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A new Assembly has now been sworn in and will get down to work for the first time since February 2022, with Alliance representative Andrew Muir chosen as the new minister at the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).
NFFN NI says the Assembly functioning again is a welcome development after two years in which Northern Ireland had been left in a political vacuum with civil servants solely overseeing departments. A delegation from the organisation met with senior politicians at Stormont this week to discuss its priorities.
However, NFFN NI remains concerned that Northern Ireland is falling behind other parts of the UK when it comes to creating a farming system which is fit for the future and reminded politicians of its recently-unveiled four-point plan to back nature-friendly agriculture and ensure farm businesses are sustainable and able to thrive.
NFFN NI manager Cormac Dolan said: “We welcome the return of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive. The return of government after nearly two years of absence will help provide the certainty that farmers need to adapt to a rapidly-changing world.
“The rollout of an ambitious package of policy interventions which support farmers to deliver high-quality food in nature-friendly ways is key to this. We are highlighting four points that need to be prioritised so sustainable farming can succeed here in Northern Ireland and hope the new minister can deliver on promises made for farming and nature.”
NFFN NI’s four-point plan which it wants politicians to enact is:
- Comprehensive details of the Farming For Nature package to be published as soon as possible.
- A commitment to funding schemes at a level which will deliver the commitments to nature and the climate written into law in the Climate Act of 2020.
- Publish an ambitious Environmental Strategy that recognises the role of nature-friendly farming in delivering its objectives.
- A commitment to bring forward an NI Agriculture Act before the end of this Assembly mandate.
NFFN NI steering group chair Stephen Alexander said: “Northern Ireland has the potential to be at the forefront of the vital changes needed in farming. However, the absence of government has severely hampered the local transition to nature-friendly farming.
“The new Assembly must now act quickly to prioritise bringing in truly ambitious, long-term and sustainable policies which support farmers to make the essential adaptations needed.”