The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) aimed at building a stronger, more effective working relationship between the Agency and farming community, while supporting sustainable farming in ways that benefit and protect the environment.
NIEA Chief Executive David Small said: “Sustainable agriculture is dependent upon a healthy environment. This agreement between NIEA and the UFU shows a strong commitment from both parties to work together proactively to help farmers improve the environment in ways that support economic outcomes. It focuses on improved communication and raising awareness to ensure farmers, the custodians of the countryside, receive the necessary information to fulfil their environmental responsibilities.”
The MoU contains measures which will deliver higher levels of environmental compliance, contribute to the achievement of relevant Directives and Programme for Government targets and which should increase the profitability of farm businesses through sustainable farming and innovative, resource efficient practices.
UFU Chief Executive Wesley Aston said: “We have been discussing the MoU with NIEA for some time now. It was borne out of concerns that relationships between farmers and NIEA needed to be improved. We suggested simple things to enhance working relations and ensure the goals of both farmers and NIEA are realised. To finally have it officially agreed is a great achievement. It is a win-win for farmers and the environment and will deliver better environmental outcomes, improved compliance and farm sustainability in a way that improves relationships between farmers and NIEA.”
Mr Small added that he believes this approach will help farmers address issues that may be causing damage to the environment through closer liaison with NIEA staff.
He said: “The challenge in developing the MoU has been the balance between advocacy and regulation, and NIEA has been clear throughout the process that it will not detract from the Agency’s regulatory role – a point acknowledged by the UFU. Enforcement is one tool to achieve environmental compliance; guidance and support is another.
“This is not a softening of our regulatory approach. We are enhancing the consistency and proportionality of our approach to ensure our customers are treated fairly across the sectors. This is a positive step in the right direction to increase levels of compliance resulting in a healthier environment.”
Notes to editors:
1. Photo caption - NIEA Chief Executive David Small and Chief Executive of UFU, Wesley Aston, sign Memorandum of Understanding aimed at building a stronger, more effective working relationship between the Agency and farming community, while supporting sustainable farming in ways that benefit and protect the environment.
2. The Memorandum of Understanding has been developed following a series of meetings between the UFU and NIEA and is available to view on the DAERA website.
3. The aim of MoU is to build a stronger, more effective working arrangement between the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) to deliver improved environmental outcomes in ways that reduce conflict and support improved farm profitability.
4. Its key objectives are:
- Establish a more productive working relationship between the Agency and the agricultural sector by helping to increase the agricultural sectors’ understanding of their environmental obligations and level of compliance.
- Help the farming community unlock the commercial advantages that excellent environmental performance can generate in competitive global agricultural markets.
- Improve environmental outcomes through a more effective partnership approach.
5. Its key outcomes are:
- A more sustainable agricultural sector in Northern Ireland which delivers improved environmental, economic and social outcomes.
- Development of a positive, interactive, cooperative relationship between NIEA and the farming community.
- Higher levels of environmental compliance throughout the agricultural sector, resulting in a healthier environment and reduced requirement for enforcement activity.
- Continual improvements in the environment through increased numbers of waterbodies achieving “good status”, improved conservation status of priority habitats & species and improved biodiversity in the wider countryside.
- Increased farm sustainability through innovative resource efficient practices.
- Increased awareness that good environmental practice can unlock commercial advantages to help meet the growing demands of competitive global agricultural markets.
- Interdisciplinary partnership approach and enhanced stakeholder engagement in decision-making processes and sustainable land use management.
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