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Committee Voices Concern on Cuts to AFBI Budget

The Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development received a briefing on Tuesday 6 October from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) on its 2020 Strategy. Members were interested to learn more about how recent budget cuts will affect the delivery of the strategy and in particular the Institute’s future capacity to carry out crucial agricultural research.

Speaking after the meeting, Committee Chairperson William Irwin MLA said: “While we recognise that reductions in public spending are impacting all departments and sectors across Northern Ireland, we are particularly concerned by the breadth, severity and rapidity of cuts to the current AFBI budget. 

“The research capability within AFBI could be heavily compromised and this will have an enormous knock-on effect on farmers and the local agricultural industry as a whole. We have often been viewed as leaders in the field of agricultural research and it is disappointing and worrying that at a time when our counterparts in other jurisdictions are increasing the amount of funding available for research, we are in effect calling a halt to future development in this key area.

Deputy Chairperson Joe Byrne added: “We feel that a strategy which has been developed against the spectre of budget cuts will always struggle to protect and meet the needs of the industry and farmers. It is further disappointing that the 2020 strategy has been pushed through without a full and comprehensive consultation with farmers about their ongoing and future research needs.

“The realities of the 2020 Strategy are at complete odds with the large-scale plans set out in the Department’s “Going for Growth” strategy, particularly in relation to arable and horticulture. This grouped with the closure of the testing station site at Crossnacreevy, the withdrawal of funding for research into renewable energy and biomass and poultry poses great concerns for the future of the industry.”

Notes to Editor:

Committee Membership

Mr William Irwin – Chairperson

Mr Joe Byrne – Deputy Chairperson

Mr Sydney Anderson

Mrs Jo-Anne Dobson

Mr Declan McAleer

Mr Kieran McCarthy

Mr Ian McCrea

Mr Oliver McMullan

Mr Ian Milne

Mr Edwin Poots

Mr Robin Swann 


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