Protein crop scheme confirmed for NI

A payment scheme for growing protein crops will run in NI during the 2021 and 2022 scheme years, DAERA Minister Gordon Lyons has confirmed.

Farmers will receive £330/ha for growing combinable beans, peas, or sweet lupins. The total area under the pilot scheme will be capped at 1,000 ha, and crops cannot be harvested until after 31 July each year.

Areas that are sown in a mixture with cereals or other crops will not be eligible for the payment. DAERA has said the scheme will be reviewed for subsequent years.

Broiler breeders get COVID support

A new COVID-19 support package for poultry farmers who produce hatching eggs has been announced by DAERA Minister Gordon Lyons.

It stems from a significant reduction in demand for hatching eggs on international markets last year amid the first coronavirus lockdown. Minister Lyons confirmed that up to £2m will be made available for poultry producers.

“This support will address the financial impact of depleting laying flocks earlier than normal, and cashflow consequences of longer intercrop periods for both rearing and laying farms,” he said.

The scheme will open later this month and eligible farmers will be contacted and asked to complete an application.

Flood aid tops UFU agenda with Lyons

An aid package for farmers affected by floods in the northwest in August 2017 was the first item raised by the UFU during a meeting with Agriculture Minister Gordon Lyons.

“Almost four years have passed and despite our continued lobbying efforts to gain compensation for those badly affected by this unprecedented event, support has never been granted to them,” said UFU president Victor Chestnutt.

He said that the next item on the agenda was bovine TB, specifically “the inaction of DAERA” on bringing forward new proposals to tackle this disease. Other topics discussed included grants for processors, Brexit, the Irish Sea border and the upcoming ammonia action plan.

Pig farmers reject Red Tractor changes

Proposed changes to the Red Tractor pigs scheme have been described as “overbearing” and “a step too far” by the chair of the UFU pork and bacon committee.

Glenn Cuddy said that the proposal for all farmers to complete online training on how to handle pigs correctly is “very condescending”.

“There are pig producers who have been running pig farms to the highest standards for generations and all of a sudden their practices that have been acceptable for Red Tractor to date will no longer be satisfactory,” he said.

Ulster Bank to clarify future in ROI

Irish customers and employees of Ulster Bank may finally get some clarity on the future of the bank in the coming days.

Ulster Bank owner, NatWest, is expected to announce the results of its strategic review of operations in the Republic of Ireland when it reports its full year results for 2020 on Friday. The review does not impact Ulster Bank’s operations in NI.

There has been significant uncertainty hanging over the future of Ulster Bank in the Irish market after it emerged in September last year that NatWest was “actively considering” winding down Ulster Bank’s operations in Ireland as part of a strategic review process.

Ulster Bank is the third largest retail bank in Ireland with over €22bn in deposits. The lender has 2,800 employees in the Republic of Ireland and over 1m customers, many of whom are farmers.