New support schemes which place a greater focus on environmental outcomes will lead to change on NI farms, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has said.

“Business as usual for many farmers will not be an option. The future is about deliverable food and environmental outcomes,” he told MLAs on Monday. Speaking during a debate on “nature friendly farming” at Stormont, Minister Poots said farmers should be “properly rewarded” for environmental management under new schemes. “I believe that farms, especially those on hills and in other disadvantaged areas, are well placed to play a major role in delivering more of the environmental outcomes that people who live in NI want and that we owe to future generations,” the new DUP leader said.

The concept of having more environmentally focused schemes for NI farmers is strongly supported by most MLAs, which suggests it will be the direction of travel regardless of what party holds the agriculture portfolio at Stormont in the future.

“There is the potential for each and every farmer to engage in nature-friendly farming through simple measures that include hedgerow restoration, tree planting and placing wildflowers at field margins,” said Sinn Féin’s agriculture spokesperson Declan McAleer.