The agri-food sector continues to be a cornerstone of the Northern Ireland economy. Despite the global downturn, the sector has continued to grow overthe last ten years and employs tens of thousands throughout Northern Ireland.
Over the last mandate the DUP ensured that the Common Agricultural Policy supports productive agriculture; we were instrumental in the development and delivery of the agri-food strategy “Going for Growth” and are responsible for recognising 2016 as the ‘Year of Food’ for Northern Ireland.
Despite the sector’s success over the last five years, there are many challenges facing it. These are a result of global price volatility, exchange rate movements, geopolitics affecting the trade of food into regions such as China and Russia and continued deflation of food prices in the major UK multiples.
The DUP through its various offices have held Department for Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) to account over the period of the last mandate and focus is to continue to make DARD deliver for its customers. We want a Department FOR Agriculture and Rural Development and not an EU police force. The DUP have ensured direct support has been maximised to support and drive forward the backbone of the NI economy. We have also delivered on ensuring DARD are not gold plating EU Cross Compliance rules for single tag penalties. Our natural heritage is part of what makes Northern Ireland a unique place to live or visit. It is something we wish to pass on to future generations in a beautiful, strong and sustainable form. This will also involve improving the public’s access to that heritage and how the public treat it.
1. SUSTAINABLE PRICES
The DUP will want to see the industry bring forward supply contractsthat minimise price fluctuations and see a greater sharing of profits along the entire supply chain. The DUP will continue to champion the Year of Food 2016, ensuring our produce takes top spot on the global stage for years to come.
2. ALTERNATIVE FINANCE
The economic downturn within many of the sectors has resulted in many farmers facing significant cash flow challenges. The DUP will look at alternative financing models, including finance from the European Investment Bank, which allow existing businesses that are highly leveraged to survive and continue to sustainably grow.
3. ACTION ON ‘GOING FOR GROWTH’
The DUP are committed to working with the industry to implement recommendations arising from ‘Going for Growth’. The DUP support the introduction of a ‘Farm Business Investment Scheme’ and a marketing body to promote food from Northern Ireland. The DUP believe that greater emphasis needs to be placed on research and development within the sector
4. A NEW ENVIRONMENTAL DIVISION
Following the merger of the Department of Agriculture and Department of the Economy the DUP will create a new environmental advisory division within the new department to help improve the natural environment. We wish to see NIEA prosperity agreements, which reduce environmental impacts while creating prosperity and well-being, rolled out to the wider economy.
5. JOB FOCUSED RURAL DEVELOPMENT
The DUP want to see the next rural development programme target rural businesses who are helping create new jobs in rural areas. This funding will either directly go towards businesses or towards infrastructure that will help develop and grow new businesses in rural areas.
6. GREENWAYS NI
The DUP is committed to developing a Greenway Network across Northern Ireland that provides traffic free space for walkers and cyclists for both leisure and commuting. We believe that this presents a perfect opportunity for partnership work and funding between the new Department of Infrastructure and the newly created 11 councils to develop such projects across Northern Ireland.
7. DON’T MESS WITH NI
The ‘Don’t mess with Texas’ campaign has been one of the most successful in changing public attitudes to public littering. It led to significant reductions in the amount of litter on public roads. The DUP wants to launch a campaign that aims to be as successful in NI. Northern Ireland public advertising led the way on changing public attitudes on issues such as drink driving. Litter not only harms our environment but also is a key cost to Councils.
8. REACHING OUR WOODLAND TARGETS
The DUP believes that Government must do more to deliver on targets set for woodland creation. The DUP is committed to increasing carbon sequestration, fully utilising public assets to plant more woodland, and creating greater incentives for farmers to plant marginal land in trees to reduce incidents of flooding. We want to build a more sustainable renewable sector in the future. By increasing the amount of woodland in Northern Ireland we are delivering for the environment and our citizens.
9. REMOVING THE RURAL DIGITAL DIVIDE
Affordable and reliable broadband is essential for all families and businesses regardless of where they are located throughout Northern Ireland. The DUP will strive to ensure that there is greater rollout of the fibre and mobile network in rural areas. The DUP will introduce a Broadband voucher, funded through the rural development programme which will allow rural homes and businesses to get access to affordable high speed broadband.
10. FAIRNESS FOR OUR FISHERMEN
The DUP will continue to fight for our withdrawal from the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) but until that happens our focus will be to ensurea fair and proper regionalisation of the CFP. The DUP will focus our attention on delivering funding for local fishing business or wider infrastructural projects to encourage job creation and sustainable growth, alongside reducing unwanted EU gold plating which is a financial burden on the industry.
11. COASTAL PROTECTION
The DUP is committed to taking forward the work of the Coastal Management Forum with the aim of establishing a single lead department and overhauling the fifty year old protection framework.