Producers demand 'safety net' legislation
Assembly parties are being asked for a firm pledge to pass legislation to help save the agriculture sector from disaster.
Organisations representing hard-hit farmers were back on the streets yesterday to demand a "fairer deal" on the prices they are receiving for their produce.
They launched a campaign aimed at securing a Stormont pledge for "safety net" legislation which could guarantee them a sustained income.
The Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPP) and Farmers For Action UK NI want a firm commitment from all the Assembly parties in the run-up to the next election in May.
They staged a small protest yesterday outside the building of the Electoral Office in central Belfast and said they will demand clear responses from all the main parties.
"The time has come where Northern Ireland Government has no choice but to provide that safety net for Northern Ireland's family farmers if NI Plc is to succeed in lieu of the deficit to date from Westminster and Brussels," they said.
They argue the legislation, which would not come through until the next period of the Assembly, would state that NI farmers must be paid a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked for their produce.
If, then the 'free' market moves up then the farmer will reap the benefits while if it falls there is a safety net to prevent the fall being too far.
NIAPP also argued if Stormont were to legislate on NI farm gate prices in the way they propose, a minimum of 30,000 jobs could be generated over the next five years.