Mr Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assembly and Chairman of the Stormont Public Accounts Committee, has challenged the new Stormont farming committee “to think local, buy local, and fund local when it comes to the Northern Ireland agricultural industry”.
Assemblyman Swann, who is also UUP Chief Whip, issued his call as he visited the recent North Antrim Agricultural Association annual show in Ballymoney, which he described as “a terrific show which demonstrated its reputation for high standards in organisation”.
Mr Swann’s praise for the “superb and outstanding” Ballymoney Show coincided with the announcement that he has been appointed as a UUP member on the new Stormont Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) scrutiny committee.
Mr Swann, who is also North Antrim UUP Chairman, has attended the annual Ballymoney Show on many occasions as President of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster and Chairman of Rural Youth Europe. He also served on the former Stormont agriculture committee in the previous Assembly mandate.
Mr Swann said: “I am very pleased that I have been appointed to the new Stormont DAERA committee. I urge Farming Minister Michelle McIlveen as part of her DUP/Sinn Fein coalition to give a cast iron guarantee that she will ensure that there is effective funding for our hard-press agricultural sector.
“She needs to think local by ensuring she puts Ulster farming interests first; she needs to buy local by encouraging consumers and shops to buy locally produced goods first, and she needs to fund local by making sure the Stormont Executive gives the proper cash aid to local farmers.”
Assemblyman Swann also praised the organisers of the recent Ballymoney Show on staging “a very impressive and highly enjoyable event and the involvement of the Local Young Farmers Clubs ensures the future is secure.”
Mr Swann had earlier made an appeal to the North Antrim community to rally behind the constituency’s farming sector and support the Ballymoney event.
As well as the recent North Antrim shows in Ballymena and Ballymoney, Assemblyman Swann also urged the Northern Ireland community to support their local agricultural shows throughout the Province.
In his statement, Mr Swann said: “I congratulate the organisers of the Ballymoney Show on the quality of their arrangements. I spent a most enjoyable time touring the stands and the events. One of the most impressive elements was the number of exhibitors and small businesses participating in the show.
“This augers well for the future development of the farming community in the constituency.
“The annual North Antrim agricultural show has firmly established itself as one of the premier events in Ballymoney region’s calendar, and it has withstood the past strains imposed on it by hurdles such as Foot and Mouth and the BSE crisis.
“Indeed, judging by the continued popularity with both the farming industry and the public, the annual show has gained the credible name of being one of Ballymoney’s ambassador events and I have written to the Causeway Coast and Glens to see how they can support this call.
“This reputation has been built over the years through the hard work and dedication from those responsible for organising this quality show.
“We also commend the commitment shown by everyone who helped make this year’s show such a beacon of success and professionalism for the locality of Ballymoney,” said Assemblyman Swann.