The Ulster Farmers’ Union has welcomed the appointment of Michelle McIlveen as the minister at the new Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).
It says it looks forward to working with the new minister, stressing that she will be in charge of an industry that shapes the Northern Ireland countryside and which is a key driver of the local economy. It says it is confident that the new minister will live up to commitments by the DUP during the election campaign to deliver for rural communities.
“Michelle McIlveen takes on the agriculture brief at a time when the industry is under extreme financial pressure. This makes the job a big challenge – but at the same time there is considerable scope for a new minister to deliver,” said UFU president, Barclay Bell.
The key issues the UFU will be pursuing were set out in its manifesto before the election. These include securing more fairness along the food supply chain, driving the Going for Growth strategy, easing the path of young people into the industry, opening new markets and ensuring the direct CAP payments farmers rely on reach them speedily.
“The income crisis will be at the heart of our initial discussions,” said Mr Bell who added that there were issues the UFU believed the minister could deliver on very quickly. “These include faster implementation of the rural development programme, including the farm business investment and agri-environment schemes; better access to finance for the farming industry, payment of the Emergency Assistance scheme to those farmers affected by last winter’s flooding, the signing off of the delayed environmental prosperity agreement, and active consideration of easing cash flow pressures by a possible early release of direct CAP payments,” he said.
Mr Bell added that an easy red tape cutting decision for the new minister would be the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board which has become even more unnecessary following the recent introduction of the National Living Wage.
“Speedy action on issues like these will boost farmer confidence in the new minister,” said the UFU president.