An Erne East councillor has voiced fears that Stormont’s new agriculture minister will push local farmers to use “electric tractors”.

At Tuesday night’s meeting of Fermanagh and Omagh Council, Sinn Féin councillor Seamus Greene said he has been “inundated” with calls from concerned farmers following the appointment of Andrew Muir as minister of DAERA.

According to councillor Greene, the Alliance MLA has no direct farming experience, while his party is focused on environmental issues.

“People are really worried about this development,” Councillor Greene said. “The Alliance Party position on agriculture isn’t far away from that of the Green Party.

“I was reading the party manifesto, and one of the things they were saying was that all farms should buy electric tractors.

“This type of thing might be funny to some, but it’s certainly not funny to family farms with maybe 10 cows, who have someone suggesting that they buy an electric tractor at £200,000.

“This is the type of stuff that farmers are frightened of. Some really can’t believe that the type of policies that are coming in. If we look right across Europe, farmers are out protesting on the streets. I can see the same things happening here.”

Councillor Green proposed that the council seek an urgent meeting with Muir to discuss his farming policy. This was seconded by party colleague, Anthony Feely.

In response, Alliance councillor Stephen Donnelly welcomed Muir’s appointment, whom he feels will offer a “valuable contribution” to the department.

“Sinn Fein had three opportunities to pick the DAERA portfolio during the D’Hondt process, and at no stage did they make that decision,” councillor Donnelly said. “Whenever we (Alliance) step up to the plate, we will be making sure we provide leadership on the full remit of the department, including the agricultural aspect.

“It’s time we got past this idea that agriculture and environment has to be at war with each other. There has to be a partnership approach that recognises the valuable role farmers play as stewards of the land, which also making sure we protect the land and fight climate change.

“I welcome the appointment of Minister Muir, and I have no doubt he will give a very valuable contribution in the context of this mandate.”