Trouble ahead for DAERA minister

It’s hard to believe that September is almost here. The year to date has been a very topsy-turvy one. All farm input costs continue to rise at an exponential rate.

But, on the upside, Mother Nature has played its part in helping to re-balance matters to a large degree.

Yes, most farmers cut back on the amount of nitrogen they put out back in the spring. But I have never known a better grass growing year in my lifetime.

All the talk of a forage crisis hitting agriculture for six next winter has subsided and even farmers in the east, who were hit badly by the drought-like conditions of July, are recouping their losses on the back of the recent rains.

Hopefully, farm minister Edwin Poots has enjoyed the summer break. I sense he will be kept more than busy as the shorter days of autumn beckon.

To his credit, he committed to getting the Single Payment monies for 2022 out to farmers in pretty short order. And, as I understand it, the push to get the monies into their respective bank accounts will commence over the coming days.

This ‘contribution to funds’ will, undoubtedly, serve to boost farm cash flows across Northern Ireland.

But looking ahead, it’s not hard to see the black clouds that are gathering on the horizon.

Consumers in the UK and beyond have reached a tipping point: food prices in the shops are now at levels that breach their expenditure limits. It’s a simple equation to solve.

Inflation has broken through the 10% barrier and continues to head in a northerly direction. Meanwhile, wage settlements are currently averaging around 5%. As a result, the spending power of shoppers is fast falling.

Balancing the aforementioned equation will require farmers receiving additional support as we head towards 2023.

So the first question that Minister Poots, must answer, after he tells the world about the good news that is the early distribution of the Single Payment monies is this: where is the £70m aid package, earmarked for local agriculture, that was despatched from Westminster prior to the May Assembly elections? Edwin Poots made great play of this matter during the election campaign.

Electioneering is one thing: farmers now expect the minister to deliver on his promises in pretty short order!