Concerns grow over AFBI cuts

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Speculation is mounting to the effect that AFBI (Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute) will close a number of sites, including the plant testing Station at Crossnacreevy, as it strives to meet new and challenging budget targets set by Farm Minister Michelle O’Neill.

An AFBI spokesperson told Farming Life that in common with the wider public sector in Northern Ireland, AFBI’s resource budget from 2015/16 onwards is under severe pressure.

“AFBI is therefore engaged with DARD in a strategic review of all work areas. That process has not yet been completed and no decisions have been made regarding the future of any part of AFBI’s estate.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the department said that the agriculture minister is fully aware of the significant implications of the budget position for 2015/16 across her department and its NDPBs, including AFBI.

“The minister informed the ARD Committee last month that she must find almost £30m of savings in one year. She reminded members that these savings, and the competing demands that come with them, must be set against a backdrop of an alarmingly difficult time for our farming community.

“The minister remains unequivocal in her determination to deliver on her priorities, including tackling rural poverty, CAP reform and Going for Growth but she is also clear that this cannot be brought forward without making difficult and uncomfortable decisions such as, for example, reducing staffing in her own Department by 10% or limiting some budgets.

“AFBI is encouraged to generate additional income, to offset reductions in the funding it receives from the public sector. The minister is awaiting a final set of costed proposals from AFBI to show how it plans to live within its available budget for 2015/16.”