Genuine partnerships needed – UFU

Ulster Farmers' Union president Ivor Ferguson. Picture: Cliff Donaldson
Ulster Farmers' Union president Ivor Ferguson. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says genuine working partnerships between farmers, government, environmental groups, and researchers must be at the heart of any plans to tackle ammonia in Northern Ireland.

UFU president, Ivor Ferguson said: “We are committed to finding workable and practical solutions to tackle ammonia. However, we believe genuine and meaningful working relationships between all involved are needed in order to deliver.”

The comments were made after the UFU president led a delegation to the Netherlands to learn more about the country’s ammonia policy. It is the latest in a series of actions taken by the UFU on ammonia.

Mr Ferguson said: “We are not the only country working to tackle ammonia and we are keen to see how other regions are dealing with it. The Netherlands is much more intensive in terms of agriculture. However, there are lessons that we can learn from them.”

The UFU met with Dutch farmers, farmers’ union officials, researchers and officials from the Ministry of Agriculture. It says the Dutch have clearly formed genuine working partnerships and it would like to see a similar approach taken in Northern Ireland.

“Our visit showed us that this approach has been the best way to deliver positive outcomes for both farmers and the environment. The rules around ammonia are stringent, however, the Dutch have found workable and economical solutions for farms. We need to see the same kind of attitude from our officials here,” said the UFU president adding that the UFU was also encouraged by the pragmatic approach taken to allow expansion on Dutch farms.

“Despite a recent ruling in the European Court, the Dutch industry and government are working to prove that their policy can deliver for both farmers and the environment. This positive and determined attitude is what we need to see more of from our officials here at home,” said Mr Ferguson.

Like farmers in Northern Ireland, Dutch farmers have also questioned the figures used in the various ammonia models and are continuing to push for better research and information. “This is a concern we share and continue to push DAERA and NIEA for more robust figures that reflect Northern Ireland farms,” said Mr Ferguson. Ammonia remains high on the UFU agenda and the organisation will continue to liaise with contacts made in the Netherlands. The UFU is currently in the process of briefing the main political parties on the issue.