The Ulster Farmers’ Union said it was encouraged by key recommendations published in DAERA’s review of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), the majority of which concur with the UFU’s views contributed during the review process, and is keen to see DAERA move quickly to develop and implement a related action plan and associated work stream.
UFU president, Ivor Ferguson, said is it now more important than ever that Northern Ireland has robust scientific services. “The uncertainty of the Brexit process means that farmers need DAERA and AFBI to be delivering services that support the competitiveness and sustainability of the agri-food industry.”
The review, carried out by DAERA, was an opportunity to help shape the future of agricultural scientific services in Northern Ireland for the benefit of the industry. Ferguson said the UFU is supportive of AFBI continuing to operate at arm’s length as a non-departmental public body. “However, it is essential that DAERA fully embraces its own recommendation in the report that a better model to facilitate input from stakeholders must be established and implemented. This will help in the development of a more strategic, longer-term programme-based approach to science commissioning.”
The UFU has also welcomed the recommendations that AFBI should also build on existing alliances with relevant organisations. “AFBI needs to ensure that it improves and better targets its communications with stakeholders allowing for more effective and flexible knowledge exchange arrangements to be implemented,” said Ferguson.