While not much political debate is happening at Stormont, a major agricultural event took place there yesterday (Wednesday) when the Ulster Farmers' Union hosted "Northern Ireland Agriculture - on a Journey to Net Zero.

To mark COP27, the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) hosted the event with political representatives from NI and journalists in attendance.

Those attending gained an in-depth insight into why farming is so important to combating climate change while meeting the rising demand for food as the global population is forecast to reach 10 billion by 2050.

UFU President, David Brown, outlining the Union’s vision for NI farmers to meet the challenges ahead said; "NI farmers will play their part in reducing emissions while feeding the nation. Farmers will help NI to meet its climate change targets while at the same time providing food produced to high environmental and animal health and welfare standards.

"NI farmers will adapt and become more resilient to producing food in a changing climate.

"NI farmers will continue to be the backbone of rural communities with a vibrant climate friendly agri-food sector continuing to provide employment, sustain ancillary businesses and play its role as a key part of the NI economy.

"NI farmers will work in partnership. The journey to net zero is not a path that farmers can follow alone. It’s vital that policy makers, researchers, advisers, food processors, energy companies, retailers, banks, politicians, NGOs and consumers work with farmers in finding the right solutions."

He added; “Farmers are at the forefront of a changing climate and it’s in everyone’s best interest to mitigate and adapt our farm businesses to address this global challenge as it affects every person on this planet. It was extremely positive to see our political representatives and members of the press in attendance at our climate change event at Stormont. A crucial message was that yes, we recognise agriculture is a key source of emissions in NI, but it’s vital that a balance is struck between reducing emissions and feeding people. This is a massive challenge for famers and the whole of society, especially when local food production is already under severe pressure due to rising energy costs coupled with workforce shortages. In particular, the poultry, and fruit and veg sectors are under serious strain with UK supply issues being reported. It’s vital that the urgency of protecting local food security and our NI agri food sector is recognised during climate discussions. We’re all on this journey towards net zero and farmers are committed to reducing emissions while feeding a growing population with high-quality food produced to the highest standards.”

"On 15 November 2022, the world population reached eight billion. Despite more than trebling from 2.3 billion in 1945, the agri-food industry successfully produced enough nutritious food to meet the growing demand globally during this period. In order to continue in line with population predictions for 2050, agricultural production will need to increase by an estimated 60 percent from a decreasing area as population and climate pressures are reducing the land available for food production.

“Meeting climate change targets and feeding an increasing population while coping with a changing climate were all discussed at the event.

“The UFU is involved with a vast amount of work to drive further climate change awareness and action on NI farms. We are currently working with industry partners to deliver a major ruminant genetics programme, and AFBI and Queen’s University to help decarbonise NI’s energy sector.

“Local farmers can and must be part of the climate change solution and with the right policy and support from politicians combined with the drive and willingness of our farmers, we will play our part in delivering climate change targets but we must not undermine our ability to feed the nation,” said Mr Brown.