The agriculture, trade and environment sectors can overcome the many challenges of the next year through genuine engagement and collaboration.
That was the message from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), Permanent Secretary Dr Denis McMahon, during a wide-ranging speech to over 100 delegates at the 151st Royal Ulster Agriculture Society Balmoral Show.
Speaking at the annual DAERA breakfast event, Dr McMahon said: “DAERA has seen a very successful year. Our major and developing industry is worth over £4.5 billion to the NI economy and employs over 100,000 people in the agri-food sector.
“Among this year’s achievements are the establishment of the TB Eradication Partnership; the Farm Business Improvement Capital Scheme will potentially leverage over £72 million of investment in the industry; the Environmental Farming Scheme is progressing well with over 3,000 farmers having an EFS agreement; we recently published the new Nutrient Action Programme for the next four years, and secured EU approval of the associated Nitrates Derogation; the EU LEADER programme continues to gain momentum across all 10 LAG areas. Some £30 million has been committed across 700 projects, creating over 1,000 full time equivalent jobs.
“Just today (Thursday), DAERA, alongside the Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency, have launched a new approach in tackling the rising global threat of antimicrobial resistance. For the agri-sector, the new “Changing the Culture” – One Health AMR Action Plan for Northern Ireland, will involve continuation and improvement of the recommended biosecurity practices, farm health and vaccination programmes and good hygiene measures and sharing best practice widely.
“There can be no doubt however, that DAERA faces a range of complex challenges in the coming year that will affect many areas within our organisation and we cannot face them, or indeed overcome them, alone.
“Only through collaboration and engagement with stakeholders and industry can we find solutions and resolutions to difficult issues such as Brexit, which has been a major focus for our industry and for DAERA over the last year. We continue to work at pace providing information and analysis to ensure Northern Ireland gets the best deal for our industry, our environment and our rural communities. Beyond Brexit, I have absolutely no doubt that Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry will survive, adapt and develop to new levels of success. We have a talent-driven industry consistently attracting hugely capable innovators and leaders.
“We must also work closely with industry on issues like TB and ammonia, both of which present particular challenges requiring team thinking. The success of this approach has been clearly demonstrated by today’s launch of a new guide to help farmers improve the environment by reducing ammonia emissions. The Code of Good Agricultural Practice has been co-produced with the farming industry and we will use this cooperative approach as we move towards producing a draft Ammonia Action Plan later in the year.”
Dr McMahon concluded: “I’d like to that this opportunity to thank all of our stakeholders for their engagement and continued support throughout the year. Together, we can ensure we achieve our joint vision of a living, working, active landscape valued by everyone.”