We'll work together to aid Northern Ireland's farmers
This week I met with representatives of the dairy sector and the banks and presented them with one simple message: we all must work together to ease the current difficulties facing our farmers.
This is a global crisis, caused by a range of international market and exchange rate factors. It cannot be solved at a local level alone.
I understand farmers' frustration and believe that everyone has the right to peaceful protest within the law.
However, I feel we can better tackle these challenges through a co-ordinated and strategic approach, which means producers, processors, banks and politicians each playing their part and showing strong leadership.
Farmers need practical support at this time and I have sought assurances from our local banks to be as flexible and understanding as possible.
I appreciate that dairy processors find the difficult trading conditions challenging and have tried to cushion their farmer suppliers from falling prices.
I want all elements of the agricultural supply chain to continue to work together to ensure that we have a sustainable and profitable farming industry. Key to this is ensuring that our farmers receive a fair and equitable return for their produce.
College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) dairy advisers will continue to support individual farmers by providing valuable support. I would urge farmers experiencing financial difficulties to speak to their bank and seek support from CAFRE, or rural support staff.
At the meeting we agreed action at a European level on raising intervention price thresholds is crucial and I have been lobbying Britain and Europe on this.
I have persistently raised the need for effective, timely EU support with both the Secretary of State Liz Truss in London and European Commissioner Phil Hogan.
I have been calling on ministers in the other devolved administrations to work with me to apply pressure and I will attend the special Agriculture Council meeting next month. I will meet with the banks and other key stakeholders again at the end of the month to ensure that this joined-up approach is maintained.
- Michelle O'Neill is Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development