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Agriculture minister Poots to quit farming role

Edwin Poots

Agriculture 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 farmhouse in which he was raised.

The DUP stalwart revealed the move in a briefing to journalists yesterday 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.

"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 time frame" 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 allowing production to increase further," he added.

Belfast Telegraph