RHI legal challenge underway in High Court

A legal challenge relating to sanctions imposed on Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) participants is underway in the High Court in Belfast.

The judicial review against the Department for the Economy is scheduled to run for three days, from Wednesday to Friday. The test case is led by local lorry and machinery dealership, Dennison Commercials Ltd.

Similar legal challenges by other RHI participants, including poultry producers, are also well advanced through the legal system.

The issue surrounds the mechanisms that were used to recoup RHI payments from participants and revoke scheme memberships.

However, it is hoped that the Dennison case could set a precedent where the other cases would be reviewed without the need for costly court hearings.

The latest case follows on from a High Court ruling last August which quashed the need for Coleraine poultry producer Thomas Paul to re-pay over £53,000 in RHI payments and blocked an attempt to revoke his scheme membership.

High probability of more bluetongue

There is “a very high probability” that bluetongue will be re-introduced to Britain through infected midges from northern Europe, according to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). The latest risk assessment from the APHA states that biting midges are most active between April and November, and the timing of a potential incursion depends on temperatures and wind patterns.

The first case of the BTV-3 strain of the virus was identified in England last November. Since then, 126 cases have been confirmed on 73 premises, in four English counties, with the last case identified on 8 March 2024.

A new vaccine which protects against the BTV-3 strain of bluetongue has been approved in the Netherlands in recent weeks.

“We are actively engaging with vaccine manufacturers on the development of a BTV-3 vaccine for use in the UK,” said Lord Douglas Miller.

Increasing prices at dairy auctions

Tuesday’s New Zealand GDT auction ended with a 1.8% increase to the price index, which means that nine of 11 GDT events held in 2024 have ended with higher prices paid for dairy commodities.

Butter rose by 2.1%, with cheddar surging in value by 8%, however it is milk powder that makes up the biggest percentage of commodity volumes trade at the GDT auction. Crucially, both skim and whole milk powders rose in value, with a 0.4% and 2.4% increase respectively.

On Wednesday, the weekly Dutch Dairy Board auction saw butter prices increasing for the third consecutive week, rising €20 to €5,890/t. However, there was no change to the price of skim and whole milk powder.

Farmer confidence at all-time low – says NFU

A survey by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has showed that the confidence of English and Welsh farmers is at an all-time low.

The survey, which has been running since 2010, assesses both short and mid-term confidence among farmers. The poor mood is reflected in production intentions, with all sectors expecting to decrease output over the next year.

According to NFU president Tom Bradshaw, the survey data paints a really stark picture: “Confidence has collapsed after months of devastating flooding, unsustainably high production costs and low market returns, and against a backdrop of reduced farm support as we transition to a new Domestic Agriculture Policy and associated farm support.”