Dungiven sheep producer Ian Buchanan has been re-elected unopposed as Northern Ireland’s Regional member on the Wool Board for his final three year term.
Commenting on this development, Buchanan reaffirmed his commitment to represent sheep producers in the province.
“With static wool prices currently a feature of the market, the handling costs have to be kept under review at all times in order to maximise returns to producers,” he said.
“With this in mind integrating technology into the systems at the Wool Board’s Muckamore depot is being actively explored.
“One major issue being faced by livestock farmers, especially in the upland regions, is the seemingly unabated designation of areas of land into Areas of Special Scientific Interest and the like.
“Once this designation takes place, without any meaningful consultation with the farmer, by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the recommended management practices on such land is completely removed from the farmer, who coincidently has farmed the area for generations in such a manner to ‘merit’ designation in the first place.
“There appears to be no further requirement from the EU for any more habitats to be designated as NI has reached its quota. Areas of land now classified as habitats restrict the livestock farming practices to the extent that no out wintering/feeding of livestock can take place and scrub has to be manually removed at a much added expense to the farmer.”
Mr Buchanan concluded: “Farmers demand the freedom to farm in an environmentally friendly fashion, as they have done so for years.
“Moving forward, common sense has to come in to play regarding the prescribed management and cross compliance requirements of all habitats. A glimmer of hope exists if this function of the Environment Agency is merged into DARD, courtesy of the proposed new departmental arrangements. There is a chance that more common sense may then be applied.”