Northern Ireland has become the first UK nation to recognise the importance of food security in its post-Brexit policy development.
Civil servants at the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) published a proposed policy framework last week in the absence of a functioning Government at Stormont.
The consultation document was released after England’s, Wales’ and Scotland’s, but is the only one to mention food security.
It reads: “Although it may not be a primary objective in terms of regional agricultural policy, food security is a highly important strategic context within which agricultural policy must operate.
“Food security is a wide and complex issue, which is very much broader than the simple metric of self-sufficiency, and encompasses matters such as the protection of productive capacity, supply chain vulnerability, security of energy supply and other key inputs, security of transport links, trade and distribution networks, etc.
“All of these will be subject to natural, as well as, geopolitical risks and influences, but the strategic imperative of being able to secure basic food supplies lies at the centre of this integrate web of interconnected factors, and the role of agricultural policy in its broadest sense is of strategic importance and influence in this regard.”
The paper sets out a number of key desired outcomes for Northern Ireland’s agricultural industry, such as increased productivity, improved resilience, environmental sustainability and the creation of an efficient and responsive supply chain.
In order to meet these aims, it proposes maintaining the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) until 2021, while simplifying administration and removing most greening requirements.
Longer term, the plan is, where possible, to move to outcome-based agri-environment schemes which allow sub-regional variation to recognise differing circumstances in catchments, habitats or landscapes.