Farmers across Fermanagh have raised funds for Marie Curie after attending the Ulster Farmers’ Union Christmas breakfast at the Ulster Farmers’ Mart restaurant on Wednesday last, December 6.

After a cooked breakfast was served, the UFU President, David Brown, addressed the large number of farmers attending along with NFU Mutual staff.

He firstly outlined the latest in the new agricultural support policy being implemented by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Following county meetings hosted by the UFU, addressed by Norman Fulton from DAERA, the union has been using every opportunity to inform farmers of the road map ahead in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

He firstly looked at what was happening in England where the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) has been introduced for a few years with a view to phasing out basic farm payments after seven years and replacing with initiatives with an environmental focus.

In Scotland, 50 per cent of the normal farm payments will be redirected towards environmental measures.

In the Republic of Ireland, as in other EU countries, their payments will be reduced by 25 per cent.

All of the measures are derived from the requirements of the Climate Action Plan.

In Northern Ireland, 8.5 per cent will be deducted from the whole farm payment in 2024 in return for supporting the new beef carbon reduction payment which will be operating from January, 2024.

The payments will be phased in as follows: £20 in January, £40 in February, £60 in March and £75 from April.

Other measures will be introduced from 2025, including a suckler cow payment.

Northern Ireland with 1.9 million people, David reminded everyone, produced enough food for 10 million people, with GB the biggest market, although to do this, farmers must import around three million tonnes of feed.

Another component is the Soil Nutrient Health Scheme, a £45m four-year project to have every field in Northern Ireland sampled, as well as the Sustainable Ruminant Genetics Scheme.

On other matters, he said glysophate had been approved by the EU once again, but with restrictions such as no pre-harvest spraying of crops.

Another major issue which the UFU is lobbying in Europe is bringing into Northern Ireland second-hand machinery from GB but which at present requires expensive documentation, including a phytosanitary certificate which could cost up to £300, as well as ensuring the machines were scrupulously cleaned.

David also commented on the current proposed Sligo to Enniskillen Greenway project by cross-Border local authorities which is going through public consultation at present.

He urged farmers and landowners to have their say on the project.

In reply to a question about the Red Tractor scheme developments, David recalled how the Red Tractor Scheme endeavoured to add an environmental module but which he said would duplicate measures ongoing in Northern Ireland.

The UFU have resisted this as it would add more bureaucracy for farmers and cost them more.

He said the Red Tractor Scheme was undergoing a governance review at present and details going forward will be clearer after that.

Regarding TB, he said a judicial review had supported an environmental group that DAERA had not properly followed the consultation process of wildlife intervention.

He said the financial pressure on farmers from TB outbreaks was enormous. Analysis has shown that in 2022, 27 per cent of the roadkill badgers lifted and tested had TB, but this was an underestimate.

Another issue potentially serious here is Bluetongue Disease which affects all ruminant livestock and is caused by biting midges.

The first case in the UK has been found in Kent. He said live imports of animals had been suspended and all animals entering Northern Ireland had been tracked and tested.

The UFU has urged farmers to be vigilant.