In the final week of electioneering the Ulster Farmers’ Union has sent a copy of its manifesto to all those standing for election to remind them that farming and food are central to the local economy – and must be seen as such by the new Assembly.
The manifesto - ‘Difficult Times - But We Can Deliver’ - outlines the key agricultural issues the UFU believes candidates need to commit to addressing if they are to secure not only farmers’ votes but those of the thousands of people who work in the food industry.
Farming and food are worth almost £5 billion and bring 100,000 jobs, many of which are in rural areas. There is potential to develop the industry, with estimates that with the right support and investment it could deliver up to 15,000 new jobs by 2020.
This is why the UFU believes it is vital politicians recognise the importance of the agri-food industry and agree to back its development.
The manifesto highlights the main issues for farmers, topped for now by cash flow difficulties as a result of price volatility.
“It is essential politicians look at what can be done in the short term to ease this pressure on farm families, while agreeing to press a new agriculture minister and Executive to address longer term solutions, to bring stability back to farming,” said the new UFU president, Barclay Bell.
Other key issues in the manifesto include access to finance, new market development, competitiveness, livestock improvement, land mobility/tenure, enhanced research and development, the environment, farm safety, rural services, and the impact of welfare reform on hard-pressed farm families.
Voting will take place across 18 constituencies next Thursday with 108 seats up for grabs, six in each constituency.