Update on business from the Environmental Committee

Wilbert Mayne joins the AgriSearch board of trustees.
Wilbert Mayne joins the AgriSearch board of trustees.

The UFU Environmental Policy Committee has been actively engaged on a number of fronts representing the views of Northern Ireland farmers on environmental issues.

The UFU Environmental Policy Committee comprises representatives drawn from all the Union’s Policy Committees therefore ensuring that all sectors are represented.

Cookstown beef farmer Wilbert Mayne, pictured, is the current Chairman of the Committee with Thomas Douglas, a poultry farmer from Dungannon serving as Vice Chairman. Some of the main issues being discussed at UFU Environmental Committee meetings currently are:

Ammonia:

The Committee have been briefed on ammonia emissions throughout the past year, and have considered the implications for the agricultural sector, and recognised that this is a significant challenge going forward. The Committee are extremely concerned about the current NIEA stance on ammonia when dealing with planning and FBIS applications and the potential for significant constraints on the development of some farm businesses.

Recognising the issue, the UFU believe that ammonia needs to be tackled with an appropriate long term strategy with the industry working in partnership with Government and other Stakeholders to deal with this.

UFU / NIEA Memorandum of Understanding (MOU):

The MOU was signed in April 2017 and an implementation working group has been established and an Action Plan agreed to take forward the various commitments. The Environment committee discuss and support the action plan and continue to monitor progress on this. There have been a number of positive outcomes from the MOU to date including progress on an Environmental Advisory Service, seven days notice of routine cross-compliance inspections, no retrospective checking of records for new derogation applicants and the setting up of online applications and reporting.

Nitrates Action Programme:

The Northern Ireland Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) and derogation is under review by the EC. DAERA officials will be meeting with EC Officials in the near future and a consultation on the NI NAP is expected later this year. The UFU will be actively involved in this consultation process ensuring that the needs of members are put forward. The Union continue to assist UFU members with the record keeping element and in preparing for inspections.

EAA Soils Scheme:

The committee supported the roll out of the Exceptional Area Aid soils package. 20,000 fields have been sampled (50% of these in a targeted catchment scheme in Upper Bann) and the UFU would encourage farmers to take up the training offered on soil sampling in conjunction with this scheme.

Agri-Environment Schemes:

Committee representatives have met with DAERA and other Stakeholders on a number of occasions to discuss the Environmental Farming Scheme. The Committee have highlighted concerns on the funding cap on the wider scheme, timing of application, requirement to do all capital works in year one, higher scheme stocking rates and the lack of flexibility within the higher scheme. The UFU have written to DAERA and raised concerns with DAERA about the ability to meet various deadlines stipulated in scheme measures due to DAERA delays and the difficult ground and weather conditions.

Brexit:

The committee are updated regularly on Brexit and the various UFU meetings on this issue.

Climate Change:

The UFU continues to be represented on the DARD Greenhouse Gas Implementation Partnership and its sub-groups which has developed and is implementing the ‘Efficient Farming Cuts Greenhouse Gases’ strategy.