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Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots to 'step back from farming' to avoid conflict of interest

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Edwin Poots

Edwin Poots

PA

Edwin Poots

Agricultural Minister Edwin Poots has said he is to step back from farming in order to prevent any perception of a conflict of interest in his new post.

Mr Poots grew up on a mixed farm outside Lisburn and still lives with his family in the 19th century farmhouse in which he was raised.

The DUP stalwart revealed the move in a briefing to journalists on Tuesday and said he is in the process of finalising the paperwork to give effect to the decision.

Mr Poots said one of the biggest challenges his department is facing is climate change adaptation in farming.

“If we get to the point where we have a sustainable environment but no food to feed it with, that’s not very sustainable,” he said.

“We face many challenges and the environment is going to be a very significant one.

“Having a department of agriculture and environment together means we can work with the agriculture side, in particular, to reduce its carbon footprint."

One of the keys issues on his desk is a new agriculture policy for Northern Ireland, however with two years left of the current Stormont mandate, he admitted there is a "very tight timeframe" to reach an agreement on the issue.

“We hope there will be many ‘win-wins’ and we can assist farmers to reduce their ammonia and methane emissions, while at the same time allowing production to increase further," he added.

"If we don’t allow that to happen we will put farming into a recession and that’s not something which is for the benefit of the community, whenever approximately 10% of the population is reliant on farming."

Mr Poots said other issues he will focus on include rural crime, rural broadband and rural mental health.

In relation to Brexit, Mr Poots said he would fight pressure from Westminster to introduce checks at Northern Ireland ports, suggesting checks could instead take place at company premises.

Belfast Telegraph