Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has cast doubt on whether future agricultural policy in NI will provide financial incentives to farmers in lowland areas to keep suckler cows.
During Ministerial questions in the Stormont Assembly chamber on Tuesday, the Minister said his Department will need to consider if the likes of sexed semen means lowland farms can rear beef from the dairy herd, so don’t need an incentive to keep sucklers.
Instead, he suggested that support for sucklers might be targeted at marginal areas.
“We need to look at the support that is provided for hill farmers, in particular, to keep suckler cows and sheep and to ensure that those hills are well utilised”, he said.
He also pointed out that new climate change policy could mean that farmers in these areas lose some of their grazing lands because of the need to re-wet peatlands, so will need to be “adequately compensated”.
According to Minister Poots, DAERA officials are at an advanced stage in the development of a new policy framework, to be published in the coming months.
“Those are all issues for discussion and debate. I do not have fixed positions on them. It would be wrong to have those before identifying the views of the public and, indeed, the Assembly” he told MLAs.
DAERA figures show that of the 247,000 suckler cows on NI farms in 2019, a total of 46% were in the Severely Disadvantaged Area (SDA), 30% were on farms in the Disadvantaged Area (DA), leaving 24% on lowland farms.