The allocation of ministerial departments during the first sitting of the new Stormont Assembly last Saturday, saw DAERA taking up its usual position as the last department to be picked by any of the political parties. In recent times, only in 2016 was the agriculture portfolio taken ahead of another department.

We probably have to accept that other ministerial roles potentially come with higher profiles and that is driven by local media that rarely sees beyond the greater Belfast area.

But some of the commentary of the last few days has verged on disrespectful towards farmers, with various media outlets and political hacks more interested in whether the new minister, Andrew Muir, has appropriate footwear to visit a farm.

They obviously don’t realise that these same farmers provide the core raw materials for food processors and it is agri-food manufacturing that is the largest industry in NI.

As for the new DAERA minister, it would be fair to say that the initial reaction from farmers ranges from the underwhelmed to those with real concerns, especially in light of the green policies pursued by the Alliance party during the last Assembly mandate.

It should not be easily forgotten that it was the Alliance party who ignored the best scientific advice around the setting of a net zero greenhouse gas target for NI.

The party has also stood firmly against badger culling in TB hotspot areas, despite it being recommended by various expert groups appointed by DAERA.

But we should only judge Minister Muir on his actions going forward. In an ideal world, he would have at least a basic understanding of the industry he is to serve, but the reality is that there are only a handful of MLAs at Stormont with any sort of farming background.

What is important is that Minister Muir takes on good advice and makes decisions that are equitable and fair.

Read more

Massive in-tray awaits a new ag minister

TB group chair hits out at 'incompetent' DAERA