Farmers For Action’s, William Taylor, has confirmed that any premature winding-up of the Stormont Executive will not impede the progress of the Farm Welfare Bill, which is currently being considered by the Northern Assembly’s agriculture committee.
The likelihood of a Stormont crash increased on the back of a recent speech given by Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Jeffrey Donaldson, regarding the perceived impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Taylor explained to Agriland: “The bill is being scrutinised by members of the Assembly’s agriculture committee.
“Three legal issues have been raised as a result of this process, which Northern Ireland farm groups, the sponsors of the bill, will be responding to over the coming weeks.”
Queries on Farm Welfare Bill
According to Taylor, the queries raised by the committee relate to the legality of setting minimum fair farm gate prices across all food production chains.
He continued: “If enacted, the bill would return farming families in Northern Ireland a minimum of the cost of production, inflation linked, plus a margin for their produce at the farm gate.
“However, if producer prices go higher than the minimum threshold established by the envisaged legislation, then no problem.
“This actually happened where lamb prices are concerned earlier this year.
“However, when the market weakens the provisions of the Farm Welfare Bill would kick in again to provide farmers with a minimum farm gate return.”
In addition, the Northern Ireland Farm Welfare Bill has a built-in climate change clause that would stop the importation of beef from Brazil and other foods that are already in surplus in Northern Ireland.
Taylor now envisages the Farm Welfare Bill being officially submitted to Stormont after the next Assembly elections. If the current administration runs its full length, these will take place during May 2022.
When asked to predict if the Assembly’s agriculture committee would endorse the farm bill, Taylor replied:
“There are no guarantees. What I can say is that Northern Ireland farm groups can give a very comprehensive response to the queries raised by committee members.”
Taylor is also conscious of the fact that an endorsement from the agriculture committee would go a very long way to getting the draft bill through all of its legislative stages at Stormont.
However, if the agriculture committee members fail to endorse the draft legislation, then Northern Ireland farm groups will be forced to come up with a ‘Plan B’, if the organisation remains committed to getting its bill enacted.