Farmers plan Stormont protest message to Brussels
Farmers are to stage a major demonstration at Stormont to highlight the ongoing difficulties facing their industry.
The Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) said it hoped Friday's protest would send a strong message to the European Commission.
UFU president Ian Marshall said: "People in Northern Ireland understand the importance of a vibrant food industry to the local economy - our aim is to make sure this message is heard in Brussels.
"We do not want to be in a situation where the farm commissioner, Phil Hogan, sees protests in Dublin, Paris or anywhere else but not in Belfast and uses that as a reason to conveniently ignore us."
In recent weeks dairy farmers, who warn they are facing their worst crisis in decades, have mounted protests at supermarkets with convoys of tractors used to block deliveries while individuals removed milk from the shelves.
Even though the dairy industry has been grabbing headlines, other agri-food sectors are also hurting, the union said.
The UFU has cautioned against collapsing the fragile political institutions at Stormont for fear they could be marginalised if direct rule from Westminster was imposed.
Mr Marshall added: "The Government at Westminster and the devolved administration here, in Scotland and in Wales have very different views of what the industry need. We are concerned that in an era of UK devolution we risk being marginalised in Westminster and Brussels if we do not have our own local political representation.
"While we recognise that there are always going to be constraints on what a local administration can and is allowed to do, having locally accountable politicians and decision-makers who better understand our farming industry has helped us in the past."
A UFU delegation is also expected to picket a meeting between the Commission with national farm ministers in Brussels on September 7 alongside farmers from across the EU.