Northern Ireland gets farming minister after two year absence

The Northern Ireland Assembly in Stormont has met following a two-year hiatus
The Northern Ireland Assembly in Stormont has met following a two-year hiatus

Andrew Muir has been appointed Northern Ireland's new farming minister following the return of a devolved government after two years of absence.

Mr Muir will head the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) at a time of financial pressure for many farmers in the region.

The Alliance Party Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) has no experience with agriculture, with previous roles being in the infrastructure and finance sectors.

Northern Ireland's previous farming minister, Edwin Poots, has been elected as the Stormont Speaker.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) said it welcomed the return of a DAERA Minister, but said there were "many much-needed strategic decisions" that needed to be "made with urgency".

Decisions regarding investment and key animal health issues have not been taken over the past two years due to the absence of local NI government.

UFU president David Brown said: “This makes the job a big challenge – but at the same time there is considerable scope for a new minister to deliver.

"Agriculture is the backbone of the NI economy, and it is vital that Minister Muir supports local food security to help safeguard NI’s agri-industry.

"The UFU will be expressing the need to roll out future direct farm support measures and the need to include sheep, decisions on wildlife intervention in a TB eradication programme."

Mr Brown also said that clarity was needed around ammonia controls and planning to help support farmers and their ambitions to become more sustainable.

“Considerable uncertainty lies ahead for our industry and the new Minister has plenty of challenges on his plate," he said.

"We look forward to meeting with Minister Muir and his Executive Ministerial colleagues to make decisions ensuring pressing and strategic issues are addressed as quickly as possible, to safeguard NI’s family farms and agri businesses."