It is now a year since political parties in NI agreed to go back into Stormont after signing up to the New Decade New Approach deal.

From a farming perspective, the previous three years was largely wasted, and it is difficult to think of an issue that was significantly progressed when devolved institutions were not in place.

Given the importance of agri-food to the local economy and the differences in farm structure and scale to farms in Britain, NI agriculture is badly served when local politicians fail to agree.

Looking back over the last 12 months, perhaps the most notable achievement was the £25m coronavirus support package for farmers announced in May. Without a Stormont Executive, that money would not have materialised.


However, while that financial support is welcome, it is also important that we have an Agriculture Minister who understands farming, challenges his civil servants, and articulates a vision where agriculture and the environment both prosper.

When he sticks to his brief, it is hard to disagree with anything Minister Poots says.

But while it has been an impressive 12 months in the role, he has still to right that wrong from August 2017 when farmers impacted by floods received no compensation, unlike counterparts in Donegal.

The Minister also seems to be intent on setting the direction for a new agricultural policy in NI

And it is also fair to say that the Minister is yet to make some big policy announcements. There will be elements of both a new ammonia strategy, and a TB eradication plan that farmers will not like. On the latter issue, he is well aware that only a widespread and significant programme to control TB in wildlife will be acceptable to farm lobby groups.

The Minister also seems to be intent on setting the direction for a new agricultural policy in NI to replace the current system of area-based schemes, and has committed to deliver a Climate Change Bill.

With the current Assembly due to step down in March 2022, ahead of May 2022 elections, his officials are working to some tight timeframes.

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