NI needs ‘transformation’ of food and farming policy, new report says

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Northern Ireland’s unique history and environment must be at the heart of a new approach to farming, which conserves soils, eliminates pollution, restores biodiversity and reduces carbon emissions, a new think-tank report argues.

‘Lay of the Land’ is the Northern Ireland focused report of the work of the RSA’s pan-UK Food Farming and Countryside Commission.

It argues for a transition to a safe, secure and inclusive food and farming system, a flourishing rural economy and a sustainable and accessible countryside.

The inquiry listened to voices from across the region, hearing stories of a system that simply isn’t working for farmers, for public health or for the environment.

It recommends a programme of continuing and extensive public engagement, with a focus on those whose views often go unheard, to help deal with the issues faced by the rural population of Northern Ireland.

Patrick Casement, Chair of the FFCC Northern Ireland Inquiry, said: “Climate change and biodiversity loss are existential threats that require us to take urgent action.

“We need to fundamentally reconsider the purpose of the complex food and farming system that governs so much of our health, our environment, our economy and our whole way of life.

“We need to build trust between everyone involved so that we can find practical ways forward to a safe and secure future.”

Dr Denis McMahon, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, said:

“I welcome the publication of the RSA, Food, Farming & Countryside Commission Northern Ireland Inquiry Report, which complements DAERA’s vision of ‘A living working active landscape, valued by everyone’.

“The report raises many important points and challenges, including climate change, loss of biodiversity and the need to deliver safe and affordable food which we collectively must address as we seek to build the future of our agriculture and food sector.”

Sue Pritchard Director, FFCC Commission RSA, said: “The Northern Ireland inquiry focussed on the critical issues; how to mitigate and adapt to climate change and restore biodiversity; how to improve the public’s health and wellbeing in all communities; and how to build on and develop Northern Ireland’s distinctive pattern of farming to play its full part in responding to these challenges.

“Most importantly and impressively, the leadership group were determined to hear citizen’s voices – especially those often unheard.”

The report was launched at Hillsborough Castle on the evening of Monday, 23rd September.