UFU and NIAPA to host politicians on farms

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) and the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA) have joined forces to host farm meetings with local politicians.

By Richard Halleron
Saturday, 20th November 2021, 8:00 am

MLAs in rural constituencies will be invited to a local farm. This will allow members of both organisations to highlight their concerns with the proposed Climate Change Private Member’s Bill.

A net zero target for greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 is supported by many MLAs.

But the farming lobby believes most have failed to grasp the impact this legislation would have on farmers and rural communities.

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The UFU and NIAPA will use the on farm meetings to underline this threat and ensure MLAs are fully aware of the consequences of supporting this Bill.

UFU president Victor Chestnutt said: “The net zero by 2045 target would mean an 80 percent plus reduction in livestock numbers, putting at least 13,000 on-farm jobs at risk. This is not acceptable.

“It is time for MLAs supporting this Bill to tell farmers why they are ignoring independent advice and the threat to thousands of jobs and family farms.”

The UFU says it understands and accepts the need for climate change legislation, with farmers in the front row of risk from inaction.

But it deems the Private Member’s Bill as unacceptable because it could wipe out agriculture and rural communities.

The UFU says it is not supported by any credible evidence and cannot deliver a fair or just transition.

“I will not stand back and listen to accusations that farmers lack ambition when it comes to climate change. The Executive’s climate change plan would bring significant change to farms, but it is evidence based and recognises carbon leakage concerns from exporting production,” said Mr Chestnutt.

He added that this was why it is important MLAs hear from farmers in their constituencies the damage this Private Member’s Bill would cause.

“As farmers, we will continue to play our part in climate action. We are up for that challenge, but it must be fair. We cannot be forced out of business by ill-thought out legislation.”

NIAPA chairman James Lowe said: “Local consumers want meat and dairy products. Removing local livestock farming would simply lead to the imports from countries where emissions and environmental standards are lower.

“We would simply be exporting our environmental problems with no benefit to global warming.

“As an industry we are committed to lowering emissions, but it is vital farmers’ efforts are supported by fair and well thought out legislation. That has to be around a balanced pathway to net zero that does not destroy farming and rural communities.”

The UFU and NIAPA say MLAs must recognise the scale of the challenge their constituents face and enter into a proper debate without hiding behind party positions.

On that basis both organisations say they expect politicians to respond positively to these meetings.

A union spokesperson confirmed that the meetings will get underway next Friday (26th November) and will continue through until January 2022.