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'Some are hopeful about Brexit... I'm not', says farmer Geoff Rodgers

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Geoff Rodgers with kids Emma, Martin, Lucy and wife Lizzie

Geoff Rodgers with kids Emma, Martin, Lucy and wife Lizzie

Geoff Rodgers with kids Emma, Martin, Lucy and wife Lizzie

The Rodgers family run a 280-acre pedigree and commercial beef farm between Ballynahinch and Dromara in the Mourne Mountains.

Geoff (49) inherited the farm from his father and runs it with his wife Lizzie (44), who is also a special needs classroom assistant at Spa Primary School, and their three children Emma (22), Martin (20) and 14-year-old Lucy.

They look after 300 Limousin, Charolais, Blonde, Shorthorn and British Blue cattle.

Geoff shares the concerns of many local farmers as the UK leaves the EU without a negotiated agreement.

"Some farmers are hopeful about Brexit but I'm not one of them. I'm afraid of inferior products coming into the UK from other countries," he said.

"I know the politicians are trying to do trade deals with various countries for other parts of the industry but I hope farming won't be sacrificed because of that.

"We're leaving without a deal and it will take a few years for everything to be worked out, but there's that added uncertainty as we try to plan years ahead in terms of the breeding of our cows."

He added: "The costs in this industry certainly haven't got any easier in recent years and we have seen increased prices in terms of diesel and fertiliser due to the currency exchange rates.

"There are other contributing factors like the single farm payment being less but, in our experience, beef prices have come back a bit, but not in terms of suckler calves."

Lizzie says the absence of an Assembly at Stormont for three years has been an added stress and in that time she has seen many beef farmers leaving the sector.

"During the time we had no government here, there was no direction or planning for the years ahead in terms of what the subsidies will be which we need, otherwise beef production is finished," she explained. "Unfortunately, we know of so many beef farmers in Northern Ireland who have sold out because they could no longer make ends meet.

"We don't want to encourage our own children to go into full-time beef farming as they will need another income to support them.

"We have brought them up to go and seek their own careers in the hope they will all come back to the farm because it's still a great way of life.

"Geoff and I want to continue doing a good enough job that we won't have to sell up and this farm will still be here for our family in the future."

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