Call for protection of front line services

DUP MLA Willaim Irwin
DUP MLA Willaim Irwin

Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman and Chairman of Stormont’s Agriculture Committee William Irwin MLA has spoken of his concerns on the impact of budget restraints on front line services within Agriculture.

Mr Irwin said the DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill needed to act “quickly and decisively” to ensure that discussions within her Department with key officials centre on the need to protect the services and resources that the agriculture industry and farming community rely on.

He said: “I have been approached by a number of stakeholders and it is clear there are a number of very real issues and pressures affecting the agri-food industry at this current time. On top of these pressures is the very real possibility that the DARD Minister may start to reduce services within her Department and this would undoubtedly have a further negative impact on our farming industry.

“There has been much good work done in recent months in terms of the creation and commencement of the implementation of the Going For Growth Strategy. It is absolutely essential that the Minister ensures that commitments made in the implementation of this strategic plan are taken forward.

“I have raised the issue previously of the future of research and development services and in particular the Agri Food and Biosciences Institute. AFBI carries out very valuable research and is a major asset to the industry providing important services to ensure that our industry has the very best scientific information available to it. Any reductions in the important work carried out in these facilities would also have a negative impact on the agri-food industry,” added Mr Irwin.

“The Minister must urgently prioritise her spending and ensure that the areas that benefit our industry most, in terms of reacting to pressures and promoting growth, are protected from reductions. The front line services that our industry relies on must also be protected, as cuts in these areas would have serious implications, including delays in processing for example single farm payments - an area that already has caused significant hardship for farmers waiting months on payments.”