DAERA’s farm reports should be made compulsory reading

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To their credit, staff within DAERA’s Policy and Economics’ Division manage to generate a comprehensive range of reports on an annual basis, detailing every facet of the output and performance achieved by agriculture in Northern Ireland.

These publications include: the Statistical Review of Northern Ireland Agriculture; the Farm Business Data handbook and the NI Farm Performance Indicators. Each of these is an absolute treasure trove of information.

The question is: how many farmers actually read these reports and publications? I doubt very few: but I would truly love to be pleasantly surprised, where this matter is concerned.

The reality is that DAERA comes in for lots of stick about things that it may not do. But, in truth, it gets precious little acknowledgment for the very real difference it is striving to make on behalf of local farmers.

All of the aforementioned reports – and many more – are freely available on the DAERA website. For me, they constitute reference material which can be used to accurately judge the state of farming in Northern Ireland – from a performance perspective – while also giving strong and clear indicators as to how farmers can genuinely improve their businesses.

A key facet of the information contained within all of these publications is the fact that it is derived from commercial farming businesses. This, in turn, should make it all the more relevant to a local farmer readership.

I know that many producers are turned off by research findings, claiming the work was carried out in surroundings which cannot be replicated in a commercial environment.

If put on the spot, I would opt for the Farm Business Data handbook as being the most relevant publication for local farmers – from a practical point of view. And, as it so happens, the 2017 version was published at the end of June.

Available for free by way of download from the DAERA website, it provides a comprehensive and authoritative source of physical and financial data, tailored to farm planning needs in Northern Ireland. Budgets are presented for all the enterprises commonly found in Northern Ireland.

I don’t want to come across as a bit of an anorak, but I believe it should be a compulsory read for every farmer in Northern Ireland. And the same principle holds for every student currently seeking to secure an agricultural qualification.