Group to challenge NI badger cull

Wild Justice, a campaign group set up to legally challenge government decisions relating to wildlife, has now raised over £25,000 in donations to seek a potential judicial review of the lawfulness of a proposed badger cull in NI.

Wild Justice, working alongside the NI Badger Group, has sent DAERA a formal legal letter as the first step in the process. However, the group points out that it will need to raise £50,000 for the initial stage of the legal challenge, and may need more as the case progresses. The three co-founders of Wild Justice include BBC wildlife presenter Chris Packham.

Poots confirms £2m pig support package

Pig farmers in NI financially affected by weakening markets, increased feed costs and delays in getting stock slaughtered are to receive £2m of support, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has confirmed.

The scheme will make payments to pig producers who incurred price penalties on pigs that were outside contract specifications from September 2021 to February 2022.

It is to open to applications in April 2022 via DAERA online services. Further information and details will be published then.

EFS payments to start next week

Payments under the Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) will be issued from next week, DAERA has confirmed.

“EFS payments will commence from 21 March and will be in farmers bank accounts within 10 working days,” a DAERA spokesperson told the Irish Farmers Journal.

The department said payments could not be issued until administrative checks were completed on the claims submitted by scheme participants.

“First year claimants had until the 31 December 2021 to establish EFS options, therefore inspections of these claims could only commence after this date,” the spokesperson said.

New top civil servant at DAERA

Katrina Godfrey has been appointed head civil servant at DAERA. She takes over as permanent secretary from Anthony Harbinson who took up the role on an interim basis last autumn.

Godfrey is moving from the Department of Infrastructure, where she has been permanent secretary since September 2018. Before that, Godfrey worked at the Executive Office and the Department of Education.

RHI facing £660m underspend in NI

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme in NI is currently projected to leave a £660m underspend, according to new figures from the Department for the Economy.

The information came to light in response to a freedom of information request from the Renewable Heat Association (RHANI).

By 2036, when the scheme agreement for the last RHI boiler in NI expires, RHI is expected to have accumulated a £420m underspend.

However, RHANI point out that RHI in Britain will run for a further six years after that, and £40m per year will still be available for NI. The extra £240m therefore brings the total potential underspend to £660m.

Methane inhibitor for NI livestock

Officials at DAERA have been looking into the use of a feed additive which lowers methane emissions from ruminant livestock, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has said.

“DAERA has had discussions with the Dutch company DSM on the use of the 3NOP/Bovaer feed additive which has been shown to reduce enteric methane emissions from cattle by between 20% and 30%,” he said.

3NOP was approved for use as a feed additive by the European Food Safety Authority last month and is seen as a promising technology for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

“Consideration is being given to the development of a challenge fund model to test these additives in NI conditions,” Minister Poots added.

Lavery awarded for COVID-19 plans

Ursula Lavery from Moy Park has been praised for her efforts in developing COVID-19 protocols for the NI food processing sector.

At a NI Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) dinner on Friday, Lavery was presented with an outstanding leadership award by NIFDA chair and Dale Farm chief executive Nick Whelan. Lavery, who is Moy Park’s technical and research director in Europe, developed safe working protocols for food processing factories back in spring 2020.

Whelan said that in the absence of guidance from government, Lavery’s plans effectively became the blueprint for the sector, and it proved essential for keeping food supply chains operating.