ABC Council launch new Agriculture Strategy to future-proof local farming sector

ABC Council launch new Agriculture Strategy to future-proof local farming sector

From left: Councillor Declan McAlinden (Chair of Council’s Economic Development and Regeneration Committee), Roger Wilson (Council Chief Executive), Adam Henson (Key speaker) and Sir Peter Kendall

Staff Reporter

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Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s vision for the local agri industry was set out at the launch of its pioneering Agriculture Strategy yesterday [Wednesday 09 March].

The first of its kind anywhere in Northern Ireland, the strategic report delves into the local agri-food industry - from field to fork - to provide key proposals for council to best support the sector and help drive its long-term viability.

Held at Lurgan’s historic Gracehall, the high profile launch event saw guests from across the diverse agri sector and featured keynote speeches from former NFU President Sir Peter Kendall and Countryfile’s Adam Henson.

Exploring the industry and engaging with council departments, key stakeholders, farmers and borough businesses, the just-launched strategy outlines a practical and achievable implementation plan - comprised of ten recommendations - for council to support and collaborate on to spark a positive impact within the sector.

Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Alderman Glenn Barr commented:

“Leading in horticulture, cattle, sheep and cereal farming enterprises, our borough is home to over 3,400 registered farms that brings around £376 million into the local economy and employs 7,495 local people. These facts are not lost on council, as we understand the vital importance and contribution local agribusinesses make to our borough’s community life and economic fortunes.

“In recognition of these invaluable assets, this strategy sets out an ambitious plan for council to sharpen its focus in order to support and drive further growth in this significant local industry. Focused on the benefits of collaboration, council is committed to delivering the strategy’s recommendations, by working alongside key stakeholders, complementing and promoting the sector’s offering plus addressing the needs of this sector to enable it to reach its true potential.”

The strategy’s ten recommendations are: expand and evolve the Food Heartland; develop a method of communicating regularly and clearly with all agriculture and agribusinesses in the borough; develop a plan to facilitate skills development in agriculture and agribusinesses; appoint ‘agriculture champions’ for the borough; develop an ‘agriculture centre’ for advice, training, demonstrations, and research; facilitate structural upgrading; ABC rural strategy; further studies in sectors related to the agriculture industry; agri-food development; and promote the health and wellbeing of farmers and rural dwellers.

The launch event also brought together industry experts for a panel discussion on the future of agriculture.

Compered by local business editor and part-time farmer David Elliott, the lively session heard insights and analysis from Professor John Gilliland OBE (Director of Agriculture & Sustainability, Devenish), Dr. Elizabeth Magowan (Director of Sustainable Agri-Food Sciences Division), Mr Simon Best (Acton House Farm), Dr. Jonathan Birnie, (Director of Birnie Consultancy Ltd.) and Mrs Olga Murtagh (ABC Council Strategic Director).

With addresses from Mr Roger Wilson (ABC Council Chief Executive) and Birnie Consultancy’s Dr. Jonathan Birnie, the event saw closing remarks from Chair of Council’s Economic Development and Regeneration Committee, Councillor Declan McAlinden. 

Commissioned by ABC Council, the Agriculture Strategy was carried out by industry specialists Birnie Consultancy Ltd. in line with the Independent Strategic Review of the Northern Ireland Agri-Food Sector, the Green Growth Strategy, key stakeholders, farmers and agri businesses.

You can access the full ABC Council Agriculture Strategy here: https://www.armaghbanbridgecraigavon.gov.uk/business/agriculture-strategy/.

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