An investigation into the issues facing women who work within the local farming industry is to be carried out by Stormont’s agriculture committee.

At last week’s committee meeting, MLAs agreed to undertake the inquiry with the aim of publishing a report in the spring.

There is time in the committee’s diary for one “mini-investigation” before next May’s Assembly election and members chose the topic of women in agriculture over one that would consider the impact of COVID-19 on rural areas.

Information about the roles that individual women have on local farms will be collected through an online survey which is to open for responses next month.

The inquiry will also look at the obstacles that can stop women from taking up management positions on NI farms. This includes issues around gaining ownership of land and family farm succession, the level of encouragement to enter the industry, and a lack of women role models in local farming.

“We will also seek individual’s views on what can be done, or should be done, to overcome barriers that women face when taking on the running of a farm, and to gauge views on how optimistic they are about the role of women in farming and whether it’s a viable career prospect,” said committee clerk Nick Henry.

The latest statistics from DAERA show that, of the 32,236 individuals who worked full time on NI farms during 2020, 16% were female. The figure is up from 9% the year before, although the sharp increase is mainly down to a change in the sampling technique which was used for the survey.