In the run-up to the pre-election period, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots announced a number of major policy decisions, including around a new TB eradication strategy and future farm support.

He obviously knew that without a resolution to unionist concerns around the NI Protocol, there was likely to be a period of political stalemate at Stormont following the May election.

But what we face now is slightly different from the situation at the last Assembly vote in 2017. Following that election, there was no political agreement, and the institutions remained suspended for three years.

This time around, a legislative change means that even if a First and Deputy First Minister are not appointed now, existing ministers can stay in post.

So in effect, Minister Poots can potentially remain in a caretaker capacity of DAERA for four six-week periods (24 weeks in total). While he can’t make major policy announcements, he can keep policy development moving along.

It is a better scenario than what was faced in the past, but still not ideal, and from a farming perspective, it is important to have a fully functioning Executive making decisions that benefit people here.

Assuming a resolution can be found to the political impasse then Sinn Fein, as the largest party, gets first pick of government Departments.

Across seven Departments (the eighth is Justice, which traditionally has gone to the Alliance party), Sinn Fein have three, the DUP have two, the Alliance have two (one in addition to Justice) and the Ulster Unionists have one.

It is impossible to predict how all this will play out and which party will opt for DAERA, although it usually is towards the bottom of the queue, so it could be a Sinn Fein or Ulster Unionist minister.

Given its pre-election stance on climate change legislation and a proposed badger cull, there probably won’t be a lot of appetite among the farm lobby for the Alliance party to take the DAERA portfolio.

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