Most of the main political parties in NI have committed to supporting DAERA’s plan to address bovine TB in wildlife ahead of next week’s Assembly election.
In response to questions from the Irish Farmers Journal, Sinn Féin, the DUP, the UUP and the SDLP all stated they back the current plan for a cull of badgers in TB hotspot areas. Alliance is the only main political party in NI that remains opposed to DAERA’s proposals.
There also appears to be general support across political parties for DAERA’s approach to a new system of farm payments in NI. This involves a reduced area-based payment, to be known as the Farm Sustainability Payment, along with coupled support for suckler cows and beef cattle and a new agri environment package. However, some criticism has been raised which gives an indication of how the proposals could be altered if an MLA from a different party becomes Agriculture Minister in a future NI Executive.
For example, Sinn Féin wants a new Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme and coupled support for sheep. The party also says minimum claim for the Farm Sustainability Payment should remain at 3ha, rather than the proposed 5ha.
Another issue raised by almost all political parties was the need for support to help NI farmers reach climate change targets.
In the short term, some parties raised the issue of spiralling costs on local farms and the need for an available £70m support package to be rolled out for the agriculture sector.