The Farm Business Improvement Scheme is a ‘huge success story thus far’

The Farm Business Improvement Scheme has been hailed a “huge success story thus far” by the Agriculture Minister.

Providing an update during ministerial questions, Edwin Poots said he welcomed the commitment of substantial investment in our largest manufacturing sector and the confidence that gives in the sector.

But, he said they want to ensure that the investments that are made are “meaningful and will deliver everything that is needed”.

He added: “For example, the investment in low-emission spreading equipment and covering of tanks etc will achieve somewhere in the region of a 25 per cent reduction in the amount of ammonia.

“For a number of years, we have been sitting with the Shared Environmental Service (SES) saying, ‘you cannot build anything’, but it has not reduced the amount of ammonia in the atmosphere by one per cent.

“Just stopping and going into paralysis does not achieve anything.
Investment in measures such as low-emission spreading equipment has made a real transformational difference.

“Importantly, in the year that it is, with the price of fertiliser associated with high oil prices, that has helped to ensure that farms will need to acquire less fertiliser because they will extract more from their slurry.

“Therefore, such an investment brings a significant benefit to both the environment and the farmer.”

The DUP’s Keith Buchanan thanked the minister for his response and said the financial input is very welcome in his rural constituency.

Mr Buchanan continued: “On the one hand, you are giving financial support to buy equipment, which is good and is needed, but they have a sense that they do not know where we are going.

“The private Member’s Climate Change Bill is affecting their business and their mental health, and they do not know where their business is going.

“What would you say to those farmers?”

Mr Poots said he tended to agree.

“ No matter what sector it is, you need some certainty,” he added.

“If you want to make investments, and particularly if that investment involves borrowed money, you absolutely want some certainty that somebody will not pull the rug from under you two or three years into the scheme.

“We need to ensure that we can move forward in the house in a way that actually tackles the environmental issues and problems.”

The minister said it is “absolutely critical that we tackle those environmental issues head on”.

“So often, there are lots of opportunities out there to turn those problems into an advantage,” he stated.

“That is what we need to do in Northern Ireland. Instead of just closing down an industry, we should look at how we deal with the problems that are emanating from that industry and turn them into an advantage.

“That is why I talk about issues like anaerobic digestion.

“We can engage in restoring peatlands, tree planting, hedgerow enhancement and different grass management, which uses multi-species sward and so forth.

“All those things will help us to reduce our carbon footprint but still allow us to produce high quality food here in Northern Ireland.

“That is what is critical.

“I do not really want to be buying food from the southern hemisphere in years to come, and I do not really want to be eating plant-based food that has been produced from insects; I would much rather have steak,” Mr Poots ended.