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End of Session Report 2008-2009

Remit and Powers

The Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development is a Statutory Departmental Committee established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of Strand One of the Belfast Agreement, under Strand 29 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and under Assembly Standing Order 46. The Committee has a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role in respect of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and has a role in the initiation of legislation.

The Committee has power:


The Committee has 11 members, including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, and a quorum of five members. The membership of the Committee is as follows:

Mr Ian Paisley Jnr. (Chairperson) 4
Mr Tom Elliott (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Thomas Burns
Mr Trevor Clarke
Mr Willie Clarke
Mr Pat Doherty 1
Mr William Irwin
Mr Patsy McGlone 3
Mr Francie Molloy
Mr Edwin Poots 2
Mr George Savage

1 Mr Pat Doherty replaced Mr Gerry McHugh with effect from 21st of January 2008
2 Mr Edwin Poots replaced Mr Allan Bresland with effect from 15 September 2008
3 Mr Patsy McGlone replaced Mr PJ Bradley with effect from 29 June 2009
4 Mr Ian Paisley Jnr replaced Dr William McCrea with effect from 4 July 2009

Key Activities, Output and Achievements

This report covers the work of the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development during the 2008-09 parliamentary session from 1 September 2008 to 31 August 2009.

Primary Legislation

Diseases of Animals Bill

The Committee Stage of the Diseases of Animals Bill commenced in September 2008 and the attendant report on the Bill was published in February 2009. With the interests of the farming industry and rural communities at the forefront, the Committee has recommended amendments to the Bill in particular the removal of the proposed link between compliance with bio-security guidance and payment of compensation and has undertaken public consultation on the draft Code of Practice of Searches of Premises under Warrant, the results of which are due by the end of the summer 2009 recess period. The Consideration Stage of the Bill is due in October 2009.

Subordinate Legislation

The Committee considers substantial numbers of subordinate legislation at an early stage and this forms a substantial part of the Committee workload. The Committee has approved 53 pieces of secondary legislation and has opposed one secondary rule during this Session on the basis that it would result in additional costs being passed to the poultry sector.

Inquiries & Consultation Exercises

Dioxin Contamination Incident, December 2008

Given the devastating consequences for the meat industry in Northern Ireland, the Committee launched an inquiry into the Dioxin Contamination Incident of December 2008. The aim of this inquiry is to establish the sequence of events and actions of all relevant parties in relation to the dioxin contamination incident of December 2008 with a view to producing a report of recommendations in order that the likelihood of a reoccurrence of such an incident and resultant effects on the Northern Ireland agriculture and food processing industries can be minimised.The Committee issued an open call for evidence ahead of oral evidence taking, provisionally scheduled for the period following the 2009 summer recess.

Foyle Area and Carlingford Area Control of Oyster Fishing (Amendment) Regulations

In light of the concerns of the majority of consultation responses received by DARD regarding an amendment to the Control of Oyster Fishing Regulations with regard to oyster sizes, the Committee launched their own consultation with the respondents and the results of this consultation are expected by the end of the summer 2009 recess period.

One-off Evidence Sessions

During the year, the committee held a number of one-off evidence sessions. These included sessions with representatives from the Ulster Farmers’ Union, Northern Irish Agricultural Producers’ Association, independent farmers and representatives from local action groups. The Committee also held sessions with; Premier Woodlands and the Confederation of Forestry Industries, on forestry development in Northern Ireland; with the National Trust on the ongoing costs of organic farming on National Trust land; with the Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers’ Association on EC proposals on quotas; with NI Pork and Bacon Forum on the dioxin contamination incident; with the Convener of the Rural Affairs & Environment Committee at the Scottish Assembly on rural sustainability and policy making; with Irish Federation of Sea Anglers on the development of inshore fisheries; with Dairy UK on the state of the dairy industry and the WWF, the RSPB and the Ulster Anglers Federation on River Basin Management Plans.

Budget Scrutiny

The Committee examined departmental budgets on 7 occasions during the parliamentary session. This scrutiny included the monitoring rounds and provisional outturn and programme-specific budgets in respect of, for example, hardship payments to businesses impacted by the adverse weather conditions and Single Farm Payment Disallowances. This detailed examination of budgets has contributed to ensuring that departmental financial targets have been met for the first time in a number of years.

Policy Scrutiny

In addition to the 14 meetings examining the policy relating to the Diseases of Animals Bill and the scrutiny of policy in respect of the 53 items of secondary legislation, the Committee received 70 presentations on policy issues from DARD and other industry stakeholders during the parliamentary session, ensuring that the needs of the agricultural industry and rural communities are given priority in the development and implementation of policies.


The Committee held 37 meetings throughout 2008-09, one of which was held outside Parliament Buildings, at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) in Loughry in March 2009. The vast majority of these (86.5%) remained in open session for the entirety of the meeting.

The Committee carried out 8 visits through the year, 7 of which were in Northern Ireland and one visit overseas.

March 2009: College of Agriculture, Food & Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) & Rural College & Derrynoid Centre, Draperstown

At the Rural College, Draperstown, Committee Members met with students and staff. The Committee then held a Committee meeting at CAFRE Loughry and undertook a tour of the Food Technology Centre, Food Packaging Centre and Food Business Incubation Centre.

April 2009: The Netherlands

This visit included a meeting with Members of the Standing Committees for Agriculture and Housing, a tour of municipal waste incinerator, Amsterdam and a visit to the poultry waste incineration facility at Moerdijk.

Committee visit to incineration plant in Holland

(Members of the Committee and hosts preparing for a tour of the incineration plant in Holland)

April 2009: Norbrook Laboratories, Newry & Ballyedmund Castle, Rostrevor

The Committee undertook a tour of the laboratories at Norbrook to discuss developments in the work on veterinary pharmaceuticals, followed by a tour of the research facilities at Ballyedmund Castle.

May 2009: AFBI Manor House Loughgall

The Committee attended the Bramley Bicentenary Event AFBI Loughgall, which was organised jointly by the NI Fruit Growers Association and the Fruit Industry Federation. The visit included an orchard walk and trade exhibition of locally produced Bramley apple products. Members also took a tour of AFBI’s plant breeding and horticultural crops research faculties.

Members and schoolchildren celebrating the Bramley apple

(Members and schoolchildren celebrating the Bramley apple)

May 2009: Balmoral Show, Belfast

The Committee attended a breakfast event at the Balmoral Agricultural Show at King’s Hall, Belfast. The Committee met with the Commissioner for Agriculture, Marianne Fischer Boal

Committee Members with the EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Marianne Fischer Boal

(Committee Members with the EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Marianne Fischer Boal)

May 2009: Ballymena Show

The Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development took the innovative step of providing an exhibition stand at the Ballymena Agricultural Show. The Committee Members met with local people to discuss the issues that affect and influence the daily lives of those living and working in rural and agricultural communities and to identify a range of subjects for their future work that are of particular relevance to the agricultural and rural sectors.

Chairperson and Members meeting exhibitors at the Ballymena Show

(Chairperson and Members meeting exhibitors at the Ballymena Show)

June 2009: Moy Park Ltd., Dungannon

With DARD plans to implement EC Council Directive 2007/43/EC regarding the welfare of meat chickens (broilers), the Committee visited Moy Park Ltd., in Dungannon, Northern Ireland’s largest food processing company. The Committee visited contract farms to view current practises in broiler growing and meet farmers directly to discuss the anticipated impact of the directive at farm level. The Committee also visited the Moy Park factory to see a demonstration of the factory process and to view a demonstration of the inspection and feedback mechanisms associated with the directive.

Priorities for the Next Session

The Committee has a substantial work programme planned for the next session. The Diseases of Animals Bill will reach Consideration Stage in the next session and the Committee fully intends that their views and concerns for the protection of the industry are addressed, especially in relation to biosecurity guidance and compensation and searches of premises under warrant.

The Forestry Bill was introduced in June 2009 and will carry forward several key existing provisions of the Forestry Act (NI) 1953. It will also introduce some new powers, including the management of forestry land so as to contribute to the protection of the environment, and the encouragement of the enjoyment of that land by the public.

The Department also intends introducing primary legislation on animal welfare and dangerous dogs in the new session.

In the next session, the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development will undertake a study visit to Brussels to provide Members with an understanding of the structures and processes of the European Parliament.  The aim of this visit is to assist the Committee in engaging on EU issues affecting the agricultural sector at a much earlier stage, both in representing its own views on policy matters and, where appropriate, in support of departmental objectives. The Committee will also continue to build on its dynamic and responsive strategy in engaging with the agriculture industry and rural communities across Northern Ireland. The Committee will be active in attending events and visits to local producers, including a visit to Mash Direct, an award winning farming business with a successful approach to diversification which is already scheduled for September 2009.

Committee Expenditure

Details of Committee expenditure for the session are contained at Appendix A.

Contact Details

Anyone wishing to contact the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development should do so at the following addresses:

The Clerk to the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development
Room 284a
Parliament Buildings


COMMITTEE FOR AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT - Committee Expenditure for Parliamentary Session 2008 – 2009

Budget area



Committee Travel - committee members and staff travel and subsistence in relation to visits and meetings outside Parliament Buildings

Includes the cost of 8 committee visits to:

  • College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), Loughry Campus, Cookstown - to meet with students and staff.
  • The Rural College and Derrynoid Centre, Draperstown – undertake a tour of the Food Technology Centre.
  • The Netherlands – to meet Members of the Standing Committees for Agriculture and Housing and undertake tours re waste incineration.
  • Norbrook Laboratories, Newry & Ballyedmond Castle, Rostrevor – tour of laboratories re developments in veterinary pharmaceuticals.
  • AFBI, Manor House, Loughgall –tour of horticultural crop research facilities
  • Balmoral Show, Kings Hall, Belfast – attending Minister’s breakfast event at agricultural show.
  • Ballymena Show 2009, Ballymena Showground’s – operated a stand at the event to meet with locals from rural and agricultural communities to discuss issues affecting them and highlight potential future work plans for the Committee.
  • Moy Park, Dungannon – visited meat processing factory to inspect and receive feedback on the impact of new EC Council regulations re the welfare of chickens bred for consumption.

And 1 meeting held outside Parliament Buildings at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) in Loughry.


Printing of committee reports

Includes the cost of committee reports:

The Committee produced one report on:

  • Diseases of Animal Bill


Advertising – the cost of public notices relating to committee inquiries, the committee stage of bills and meetings held outside Parliament Buildings

Includes the cost of public notices in relation to:

  • Diseases of Animals Bill
  • Committee Consultation into Dioxin incident (Dec 2008)
  • Committee Consultation on Searches under Warrant
  • 1 meeting outside Parliament Buildings


General expenses

Cost of refreshments for committee meetings, working lunches, seminars, room hire and witness expenses