Planning barriers for farmers renewing or expanding their farm buildings have been frustrating farmers across Northern Ireland.

It means that farmers cannot invest or make plans to sustainably develop their farm business without the required planning permission as a result of an announcement from NIEA.

It means that farms within 7.5kms of a designated site would have difficulty getting planning permission – this would effectively apply to 97 per cent of all farms.

The decision for NIEA to move away from the Ammonia Standing Advice is due to a legal challenge by the Office of Environmental Protection.

NIEA will now provide planning authorities with case- and site-specific advice, on a case-by-case basis.

This was one of the major concerns voiced at the last of the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) Presidential Roadshows, held in the Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen last week.

David Brown, the Fermanagh UFU President, making his final appearance at the series of annual roadshows before his term of office ends on May 1, said there was no consultation on these arrangements and the Union was considering their next steps.

Another frustration for farmers are the ongoing difficulties with NIFAIS, DAERA's Northern Ireland Food Animal Information System, described by them as a "new flexible and innovative IT system that supports efficient and effective delivery of current and future food animal information services".

NIFAIS replaces the Animal and Public Health Information System (APHIS).

However, ongoing problems experienced by farmers and livestock markets have been evident.

It was announced at the UFU meeting that DAERA are looking at summer 2025 for the software to be finally installed and fully workable.

Farmers present at the meeting were also eager to get more information on the future agricultural support package.

The first part of this – a new Beef Carbon Reduction Scheme aimed at reducing livestock greenhouse gas emissions, and improving efficiency in the beef sector – was introduced from January 1.

Payments are tiered; £20 for cattle slaughtered in January, rising to £40 in February, £60 in March and £75 in April, with the aim over the next four years of reducing the age of cattle at slaughter from 30 months to 26 months in Year 4 to be eligible for payment.

Funding for this will be taken from this year's Basic Farm Payment, equating to a reduction of 8.5 per cent.

During the meeting, the UFU's Presidential team discussed a wide range of issues such as agricultural support, a range of diseases including Avian Influenza, Bluetongue, TB, the Red Tractor assurance scheme, Soil Nutrient Health Scheme, Sustainable Ruminant Genetics, Ammonia, and veterinary medicines authorisation from the EU.

There is concern over the availability of certain veterinary medicines in Northern Ireland as a result of the province's unique links with the EU, as manufacturers might withdraw the medicines rather than having to register a huge amount of documents.

Another frustration for some farmers was the announcement by Red Tractor to include a green farm commitment without any consultation.

All farm unions in the United Kingdom have representation on the board of Red Tractor, but they were not consulted.

Now a governance review is proceeding, and it is not clear what will happen until it is completed.

On TB, the UFU has been scathing of DAERA over its consultation document where it recommends cutting the compensation rates for TB reactors, especially as DAERA could not go ahead with a wildlife intervention scheme due to a judicial review on its proposal.

David Brown described DAERA's proposal to cut TB rates as " beyond unpalatable". He and the President ‘steam encouraged farmers to make their views known on the consultation.