Farm Business Investment Scheme

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 3rd November 2020.

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Photo of Keith Buchanan Keith Buchanan DUP 2:30 pm, 3rd November 2020

T5. Mr K Buchanan asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs how the recently announced farm business investment scheme will continue to reduce emissions and increase the nutrient uptake. (AQT 605/17-22)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

One element of the new farm business investment scheme is that we will give additional points to people who are covering tanks or buying equipment that has low emission spreading applied to it. That in itself will help with the ammonia problem that Ms Bailey raised earlier. We intend to run that course over the next number of years — not just that; we will add to it going forward. A consequence of that is that more nutrients will get to the area where they need to go, fewer will go into the atmosphere, and, in conjunction with a course of work on soil sampling that we intend to introduce at a later point, farmers will have a better knowledge of what exactly their fields need. That should bring about a further reduction in emissions and, indeed, savings for farmers in reducing the amount of inorganic fertilisers that they acquire to augment the nutrients that they have on farm.

Photo of Keith Buchanan Keith Buchanan DUP

I thank the Minister for his answer. He indicated that the Department intends to roll that out in future years. Does he envisage that there will be more of a financial increase per year? Obviously, a lot of the equipment on farms is tired — I will use that terminology — and not up to modern standards. Therefore, does he see that figure increasing yearly?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

We could always do with a bit more money, so I will be looking to colleagues in the Department of Finance to assist us. We want to make Northern Ireland carbon-neutral by 2050. Agriculture needs to make its contribution. It will therefore need support in order to arrive at that point. The agriculture industry is involved in carbon sequestration, and that is an important element of it. On the one hand, we reduce and lower emissions. On the other, we increase carbon sequestration on farms. In that way, we can make a real impact on the environment for the good.