'Disaster', 'fatal blow': Northern Ireland reacts to no-deal Brexit tariffs
Agri food organisations in Northern Ireland have heavily criticised the trade arrangements announced by the UK in case there is no Brexit agreement.

The Ulster Farmers Union has warned that interim tariff arrangements announced by the UK this Wednesday would "devastate Northern Ireland’s farming industry".

While heavy taxes would apply to agricultural imports, a tariff-free quota equivalent to what the UK currently imports from the EU would be exempt from tariffs, and trade from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland would be fully exempt for a period.

Differential treatment

“We have very real concerns about the proposal for a 0% tariff on agricultural goods coming from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland and the differential treatment with Republic of Ireland and Great Britain trade where tariffs will apply," said UFU president Ivor Ferguson. "This would drive down prices and hit producers here. It could also potentially open the door to illegal trade which would seriously impact on the integrity of the NI agri food industry."

Instead, the UFU has called on the UK to reciprocate whatever tariffs the EU applies to UK exports. The organisation also slammed the British government's announcement of the tariffs just over two weeks before the UK is due to exit the EU on 29 March, leaving insufficient time for farmers and businesses to prepare.

It would crush our farming base

The agri food alliance of food processors has also warned that the plan would be devastating for the industry. "It would deal a fatal blow to indigenous food production in the UK and in particular Northern Ireland. It must not be contemplated," a statement from the group reads.

According to the group, the tariff-free quota could give the European Union unfettered access to Northern Ireland, and therefore Great Britain, whereas Northern Irish producers would not be able to export freely to the EU.

Gridlock

"It would crush our farming base, destroying family businesses within weeks and would decimate investment leading to closures and job losses," the statement continued. "We would also face gridlock on our roads and at our ports due to the increased volume of goods coming from the Republic of Ireland in transit to Great Britain."

Both the UFU and the agri food alliance have called on MPs to avoid a no-deal Brexit at all costs in light of the proposed trade arrangements.

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Co Clare pupils win science prize for research on cows and climate
Four schoolgirls fed cattle seaweed, surveyed farmers at the mart and visited milk processing plants to enter the Intel Mini Scientist competition.

Sixth class pupils Méabh McGonagle, Jennifer Mullen, Kate Strogen and Méabh Keenan fom Saint John's Primary School in Cratloe, Co Clare, have won the best project book award in the Intel Mini Scientist competition for their project "Cows: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly".

"There were 8,000 pupils at the start with 2,300 projects," Mullen told the Irish Farmers Journal.

"We made it into the top 1%" at the national final at NUI Maynooth this month.

Strogen said the group decided to study dairy production after hearing about greenhouse gas emissions from cattle.

"The good is the milk, the bad is the emissions, the ugly is the slaughter and slurry," she explained. Although none of the four live on farms, they have farmers among their close relatives and worked with them for their research.

Food safety

"We heard about Joe Dorgan, a farmer from Canada, who found that by feeding seaweed you can reduce emissions," said Keenan. The girls then spent time with a farmer in Co Galway to feed seaweed to cows themselves and observe their reactions.

They also visited the Lullaby fresh milk plant in Kanturk, Co Cork, and the Wyeth milk powder factory in Askeaton, Co Limerick. There, they saw how infant formula is produced and discuss the food safety aspects of seaweed-diet milk with the company.

We found only one vegetarian and no vegan

Next, they studied public opinion, starting with children's attitudes to vegan and vegetarian diets in their own school – going vegetarian themselves for two days.

"From third to sixth class, we found only one vegetarian and no vegan," said McGonagle.

One percent of pupils would considered going vegan and 8% vegetarian. Giving up milk chocolate emerged as a major barrier to veganism, she added.

The pupils went to Sixmilebridge Mart to survey farmers and found that 35% would be willing to experiment with feeding their cows seaweed, and this jumped to 85% if there received financial incentives to do so.

We emailed the Minister for Agriculture about it

The four girls have been sharing the results of their research. "We emailed the Minister for Agriculture about it, made posters around the mart and gave them to farmers," said McGonagle. They received a reply from Department of Agriculture officials saying they would keep the suggestions for ongoing environmental policy development.

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MEP calls for end to 'forestry land grab' in Leitrim
An event called 'Fighting the land grab!' has been organised to take place in Co Leitrim by Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy on Thursday 21 March.

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has called for an end to a forestry “land grab” in Co Leitrim.

The Midlands–Northwest representative said farmers were being priced out of available land by foreign corporations and vultures funds availing of government and EU grants, tax breaks and low-cost loans.

“Rather than helping the environment, forests in Leitrim have become ecological dead zones. Peatland and animal nesting grounds have been transformed into fast-growing Sitka plantations subjected to clear-felling,” said Carthy.

Policy

As a result of the forest strategy pursued by both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, the local community in Leitrim has suffered while watching the county change beyond recognition, according to Carthy.

A public meeting called 'Fighting the land grab!' has been organised for Thursday 21 March and will take place in the Bush Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon.

Kelsey Perlman of FERN, an EU-level organisation dedicated to protecting forests as well as the rights of communities living close to them, has been invited to speak at the event.

According to a report published by the organisation, the forest policy employed in Leitrim is an example of worst practise across 11 EU member states.

Sligo-Leitrim TD Martin Kenny will also contribute to the event and will focus on the current Irish forestry policy.

Delivery

“Thursday’s event is an opportunity to inform the public about policies at a national and European level and how they can be changed," said Carthy.

"The policies pursued by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have caused damage that won’t be easily undone.

"So, we have to start by putting an end to the current land grab and proceed to delivering a forestry strategy that works for the environment, for the local economy and for communities.”

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Weekly weather: calm and mild to Friday
As high pressure builds, a lot of dry and calm weather is expected in the coming week.

Land is very heavy at the moment but it should improve slightly over the coming week, according to the latest farming forecast from Met Éireann. The week ahead will be much drier than average with less than half the seasonal rainfall amount expected in most areas.

An improvement in temperatures is expected with levels one or two degrees above average.

Some opportunities for spraying are likely at times.

Daily forecast

Monday

Monday will start rather cloudy with scattered outbreaks of rain and drizzle but good dry periods too. Highs of 8-10°C in moderate westerly breezes. Mostly dry under broken cloud on Monday night. Some frost locally too. Lows of 1-6°C, in light west to southwest breezes. Later in the night patchy drizzle and mist will move in across Atlantic counties, mainly near coasts.

Tuesday

Overall the outlook from Met Éireann is a mild week from Tuesday through to Friday. Tuesday will be mostly cloudy with patchy rain, but overall a good deal of dry weather with the best of any sunny spells in the east. Milder than recent days with highs of 10-14°C in mostly moderate southwesterly winds. Largely dry overnight with just light breezes and minimum temperatures of 5-8°C.

Wednesday

Generally dry with some sunny spells and light southwest breezes. It will be duller though across Atlantic counties with the odd spot of drizzle. Pleasantly mild with highs of 11-16°C and best values across the west midlands.

Thursday

Some patchy rain across the west and northwest where it will be rather cloudy, otherwise a lot of dry weather across the country with some brighter spells. Highs of 11-15°C in no more than moderate westerly breezes.

Friday

A breezier day with fresh and gusty southwest winds. A few well-scattered showers are likely but overall dry with some sunny spells. Highs of 11-14°C.