Beef scheme won’t mean more meal, says Muir

Cattle should not need more concentrates to be eligible for payments under the Beef Carbon Reduction Scheme, Agriculture Minister Andrew Muir has said.

All NI-born prime cattle that are slaughtered under 30 months of age are eligible for the scheme in 2024. The age criteria will drop each year to reach 26 months in year four (2027).

In response to a written question from Independent MLA Claire Sugden, Minister Muir said 80% of cattle slaughtered in NI already meet the 30-month target.

“The targets set in the Beef Carbon Reduction Scheme by no measure represent or require an intensive production system,” he said.

“Additional purchased feedstuffs can be avoided through better grassland management within a grass-based production system, as well as better attention to animal health and better genetics,” he added.

Wider review into quality assurance begins

The initial steps ahead of a wide-ranging review into farm quality assurance schemes in the UK have begun.

A panel of “independent commissioners” has been set up to oversee the review and it will be chaired by former Harper Adams vice chancellor Dr David Llewellyn.

The other commissioners are James Withers, the former head of Scotland Food and Drink, and Mark Suthern, chairman of the Farming Community Network. A fourth commissioner is still to be appointed.

The review was ordered by all four UK farming unions along with the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

It is set to examine various aspects of quality assurance, including how schemes can deliver value for farmers and how standards are developed.

A separate review into the governance of Red Tractor was completed last month after farmers reacted angrily to plans for a new “Greener Farms Commitment” module.

Price contracts are ‘a two-edged sword’

Fixed price contracts between farmers and processors were described as “a two-edged sword” by a representative from the food industry during a meeting in Westminster on Tuesday.

Speaking to a committee of MPs, Rod Addy from the Precision Trade Federationsaid flexibility is needed within fixed price contracts to allow for fluctuations in spot markets.

“What you need is a system where you have a longer-term contract to guarantee that relationship, but that contract is perhaps more variable, so it is able to respond to inflationary pressures up or down,” he said.

“You also need a recognition that the supply chain takes a long time. With livestock, it’s not something you can turn around overnight,” he added.

Green watchdog’s inquiry into wild bird habitats

DAERA is being investigated by an environmental watchdog over possible failures in complying with laws related to Special Protection Areas for wild birds.

The Office of Environmental Protection (OEP) is also investigating authorities in England and similar inquiries are taking place in Scotland and Wales.

“Our investigation will seek to establish whether the recommendations of previous Special Protection Areas reviews, such as one that was published in 2001, have been fully implemented and if not, the reasons why,” said Natalie Prosser from the OEP.