Growers call for NI protein crop pilot to be extended to second year

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has called for a department-led pilot on protein crop payments to be extended to a second year.

The pilot scheme, which is planned to begin next year, will offer growers £330/ha with eligible crops including peas, beans and sweet lupins.

The rate will result in a margin for protein crops comparable to that for other cereal crops.

The department hopes that in making protein crops more profitable it will reduce Northern Ireland’s dependence on imported plant protein and will also encourage best practice in crop rotation, pest management and crop diversity.

Commenting on the consultation, UFU deputy president William Irvine said, “The UFU has been strong advocates lobbying for a protein payment scheme in recent years.

With our nearest competitors in the Republic of Ireland benefiting from a similar initiative, we support the proposed pilot scheme encouraging the establishment of protein crops, striving longer term to reduce the livestock sectors dependence on imported protein.

“Locally produced proteins will deliver many environmental benefits, such as supporting the already flourishing wildlife habitats on-farm alongside helping to reduce the carbon footprint throughout the supply chain.”

However, the UFU warned that a limiting factor of the pilot scheme is the window of one year.

“Many crop rotations are already made and with further seed complexities due to Brexit, the UFU request that the pilot scheme is rolled out over two years, including 2022,” Irvine said.

For the pilot scheme to be successful the UFU ask that DAERA liaise with the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association to seek their support and encourage the use of homegrown protein in feed rations.

“Producing protein is an integral part of the wider supply chain and for this initiative to be successful, it will require greater coordinated efforts by AFBI and CAFRE with those producing the protein and the livestock end user.

“Training and shared learning opportunities need to be made accessible for both the grower and end-user. CAFRE Business Development Groups could be a viable tool to assist with this delivery.”