Only by working in partnership with the industry and across geographical boundaries, can we deliver the full potential of our agri-food sector.
That was the key message from the deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness to delegates from across North America and Europe at a major agriculture conference held at the Hilton in Templepatrick.
The conference, which attracts over 300 of the top policy makers from Europe and North America, is the 37th North American/EU Agriculture conference and is being held in Northern Ireland for the first time.
Speaking at the event the deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “This conference will be both informative and thought provoking with agricultural policy makers from Europe and North America sharing their experience and developments in agriculture on both sides of the Atlantic.
“The north of Ireland boasts a strong, world class agri-food industry which contributes substantially to our local economy. Our farmers are facing challenges, not least the tough global market conditions at this time, but there are also many successes to be proud of.
“Under the fine stewardship of our Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill significant progress is being made towards accessing new international export markets for our high quality agri-products. This includes the strengthening of our links with North America. Our recent achievement in securing Officially Brucellosis Free status from the European Commission, and the work of DARD’s College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise, equips our young people with the skills and knowledge to work and innovate.
“Our Executive is committed to doing all it can to support the local agri-food industry in achieving the ambitious growth targets set out in its export focussed strategy Going for Growth. Work continues across government and industry to drive forward this work.”Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
“Our Executive is committed to doing all it can to support the local agri-food industry in achieving the ambitious growth targets set out in its export focussed strategy Going for Growth. Work continues across government and industry to drive forward this work. We have recently received European approval for the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 for the north of Ireland. This paves the way for funding to improve farming and agri-food businesses, to protect our environment and to support rural projects across the north. The proposed Farm Business Improvement Scheme under the Rural Development Programme will make support for knowledge transfer, innovation, cooperation and capital investment available to farmers here.
“I am aware a number of important EU trade agreements are currently under negotiation, including with partners in Canada and the US. I warmly welcome the potential opportunities such new agreements can bring, but I also believe any trade agreement needs to be balanced between creating opportunities for growth and offering protection to vulnerable sectors.
“The challenges we face bring into sharp focus the nature and structure of the industry, particularly its vulnerability to the volatility of the global market. Global crisis may be caused by factors beyond our control, but their impact can be influenced and managed.”