We might have avoided a Stormont poll in December, but the prospect still remains that an election will be called by NI Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris in the new year.

Whether it will achieve anything is not clear, and ultimately this all comes down to the decision by the DUP not to reform a Stormont Executive, while the current NI protocol arrangement remains in place.

In the meantime, with no political direction, major decision-making at Stormont is stalled, and that impacts everyone, including farmers.

It is hard to see how major policies such as a targeted badger cull in TB hotspot areas or changes to farm payments due to happen in 2024 can proceed without ministerial sign-off.

We also don’t know which political party will take the DAERA portfolio the next time around.

While many farmers would like to see Minister Poots return, the reality is that is probably unlikely. Among the seven Departments on offer (excluding Justice), DAERA is traditionally one of the last picks, so based on the 2022 election it could fall to Sinn Féin (pick 6) or the Ulster Unionists (pick 7).

That would all change if the smaller parties decided not to go into an Executive or if there is another election in 2023.

For farm lobby organisations, they will have to work with whichever party takes DAERA, but of all the options, it is probably the prospect of an Alliance DAERA minister that causes some nervousness. It was the Alliance along with the Greens that fought to the bitter end against a separate target for methane (crucial for livestock farming) in the NI Climate Change Act.

In addition, Alliance MLAs have argued against a targeted cull of badgers in TB hotspot areas.

However, one thing we have learned from the history of Stormont is that it is easy to oppose things when on the outside, but when you actually have to make decisions that impact livelihoods, you might not be as radical as you once thought. With power comes responsibility.

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