Review of the year: Weather, sustainability and going for growth

MAY: The weather eventually turned for the better during the second week of May, at which stage the entire farming industry breathed a collective sigh of relief.

With the impact of the weather crisis now in the rear view mirror the IFA refocused its attentions on the fast evolving CAP Reform negotiations. It was now clear that the central elements of the European Commission’s initials proposals – specifically the introduction of an area based payment system and new greening measures –  would be maintained. The key challenge facing the IFA was that of securing the long-term viability of beef finishers who rely heavily on relatively large single farm payments, simply to remain in business.

For his part, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney was at pains to explain that the implementation of the new CAP deal would in no way interfere with the growth targets laid down within the Harvest 2020 report. Being the consummate politician that he is, he introduced the term ‘sustainable intensification’ into the lexicon of agri terminology .

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland the Agri Food Strategy Board published its ‘Going for Growth’ policy document during Balmoral Show week. Its recommendations envisaged a 50 per cent growth in agri-food turnover by 2020. However, the attainment of this target would require a government support package of around £400m sterling.

The initial response to the report from all sections of the farming and food industries was extremely positive with Stormont Ministers Michelle O’Neill and Arlene Foster extremely complimentary regarding the challenges identified and the proposed solutions offered.

May of this year also saw Balmoral Show move to its new home on the outskirts of Lisburn. The general reaction of the visiting pubic to the new show grounds was extremely positive. But even the organises will admit that the traffic arrangement on day one were shambolic.

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