Delivering on sustainability throughout the farming industry and in all rural communities is now an Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) priority.

The organisation’s president, David Brown believes that the farming industry and rural communities are already playing a major part in helping to meet Northern Ireland’s climate action targets.

He cited the growth in anaerobic digestion (AD) at farm level and the continuing development of the wind energy sector as important examples of this commitment.

The union representative also acknowledged that the objectives included within a soon-to-be-agreed climate action plan for Northern Ireland, will be extremely challenging, from a farming point of view.

Speaking at a press event this week, he explained: “Agriculture has continued to evolve over many years. And the industry will, no doubt, meet its climate change commitments.

“But we are one industry within an entire society that must step up to the mark, where climate change is concerned.”

Sustainability in farming

Brown views agricultural sustainability as having three key facets.

He said: “Where climate change is concerned, agriculture is a critically important part of the solution. And the general public must be made fully aware of this point.

“Sustainability works at three levels. Farm business must be economically sustainable. At a national level, the issue of food security will always be important. And, of course, environmental sustainability will always be a critically important issue.”

The coming months will see the UFU push ahead with other stakeholder bodies to develop a new, over-arching sustainability body for Northern Ireland.

The organisation will be developed on an organic basis. However, one of its key roles will be to facilitate the marketing of food and drink produced in Northern Ireland.

It will also play a key role in communicating the facts concerning the key role of production agriculture at the very heart of the overall response to the challenge of climate change.

“Farming must go on the offensive, where climate change is concerned,” Brown continued.

“At a very fundamental level, we are part of the solution. And the general public must be made aware of this fact.”

Brown regards future security and the response to climate change as two sides of the same coin, where the issue of sustainability is concerned.    

“We are fast heading towards of a global population of 10 billion people,” he stressed.

“However, the world’s population has actually doubled in the years since the ending of World War II.

“Farming has successfully met this food security challenge. And, no doubt, it can respond again as we look towards 2050 and beyond,” he concluded.