Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had on establishing farmer-led groups to co-develop new ways of working that will help make farming and food production more sustainable.
Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs: My Department delivers a number of Schemes which encourage a farmer-led group approach to knowledge transfer. These schemes integrate sustainability with technical efficiency, productivity, profitability and innovation. The Schemes are part funded by the EU and are delivered by the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).
CAFRE works with 165 farmer-led groups through the Business Development Groups (BDGs) Scheme. Over 3200 farmers and growers participate in BDGs which allow sharing of knowledge with the aim of improving the sustainability, technical efficiency and profitability of farm businesses.
Innovative technologies and practices are key drivers of future productivity, sustainability and resilience of the Agri-food Industry. CAFRE delivers two Innovation Schemes. The Farm Innovation Visits Scheme has been designed to encourage farmers to adopt innovative technologies and practices within Europe. To date 284 farmers have visited a wide range of farms and agricultural businesses across Europe as part of 20 Farm Innovation Visits. CAFRE has also established 20 locally based Technology Demonstration Farms which give farmers the opportunity to demonstrate technologies and innovative approaches that they have already adopted, to their farming peers.
The European Innovation Partnerships Scheme uses a collaborative approach between farmers, researchers, businesses and advisory services to encourage innovation to address problems or opportunities identified by farmers. Seven Operational Groups have been established to deliver projects aimed at improving the sustainability and competitiveness of the agri-food sector.