An MLA has said farmers remain key to meeting Northern Ireland’s climate goals, while ensuring food security in a period of global instability.

Claire Sugden said economic and political forces were putting ever increasing pressure on local farmers, and that government intervention and support would be necessary for them to sustain their businesses.

“The Northern Ireland Climate Act was established during the previous Assembly mandate and it was one I supported,” Sugden said.

“Man-made climate change is now undeniable and continues to accelerate towards irreversible tipping points.

“The fears of some in agriculture, however, in relation to what this act means for their business, must be met with genuine and concrete support for farmers’ already admirable efforts towards carbon capturing, off-setting and reductions throughout the industry.

Farmers are needed ‘more than ever’

Sugden said that we need our local farmers now “more than ever”, amid global food insecurity, unreliable international supplies and political instability.

“I am pleased that at COP27 it was determined that a joined-up approach must be taken to both the necessary reductions in carbon output and the needs of global food consumption.

“The fact Northern Irish farmers feed many more times the number of people living in the country underlines the fact that there are cases where places may do more than their fair share of food production, with associated increases in emissions.

“What cannot happen is for farmers in Northern Ireland to be punished while food – and therefore carbon – production is simply off-shored somewhere else.

“I have no doubt that with the right support, farmers here can make changes and transitions to lower carbon farming.

“This must, however, go hand in hand with economic and political support for the now-myriad pressures facing agriculture here.”