EU-UK close to solution for sheep movements

Sources indicate that an agreement could be close between the EU and UK which will allow sheep to move from Britain into NI.

The exact details of the solution remain unclear, but an official announcement on the matter is expected shortly.

Since 1 January 2021, all sheep entering NI from Britain had to be scrapie monitored, and with very few flocks meeting the criteria, trade across the Irish Sea effectively stopped.

The scrapie monitoring requirement is set out in the export health certificate which must accompany sheep that are imported into the EU from non-member states, known as third countries.

Under the NI protocol element of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, NI remains in the EU’s single market for goods, but Britain is classified as a third country.

New head civil servant at DAERA

Anthony Harbinson has been appointed as the new permanent secretary of DAERA. Harbinson previously worked within the Department of Justice and has taken over from Dr Denis McMahon as the head civil servant at DAERA. McMahon was in the role for three and half years and has now taken over as permanent secretary at the Executive Office.

Most reactor cattle removed within 15 days

DAERA has been meeting its target to have 90% of bovine TB reactors removed from farms within 15 days of a positive test, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has said.

“From the most recent figures available, the 90% target has been surpassed in 11 of the 12 months from July 2020 to June 2021,” the minister confirmed in response to a written question from North Antrim MLA Jim Allister.

In October 2020, only 85% of reactors were removed within 15 days, but in all other months removal rates ranged from 92% to 98%.

“The primary reason for longer retention of reactors on farm is for cows in the later stages of pregnancy. Under welfare legislation, pregnant animals cannot be transported in the last 10% of gestation or within a week post calving,” Minister Poots said.

Tier 2 grant scheme to open next month

A second tranche of the Tier 2 capital grant scheme will open for applications next month.

The Tier 2 scheme offers up to 40% grant funding for projects costing over £30,000, up to a maximum grant of £250,000.

“Invitations to information sessions will issue shortly to eligible applicants, ahead of the scheme opening later in October,” Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots said at Balmoral Show on Wednesday.

A total budget of £12m is available, but only farmers who submitted an expression of interest form in August will be able to proceed with a full Tier 2 application.