Bill a once in a lifetime opportunity: Dodds

MEP Diane Dodds
MEP Diane Dodds

DUP MEP Diane Dodds has welcomed the commitment given in the Queen’s Speech for a new UK Agriculture Bill which will afford a once in a lifetime opportunity to maximise the benefits of Brexit for farmers across Northern Ireland.

Commenting, Diane Dodds said: “This week Her Majesty the Queen outlined the Government’s programme of work for the next two years. Given that it is the big ticket issue of the day it is no surprise that the speech was dominated by Brexit. One of the key commitments is a new Agriculture Bill, which will present a once in a generation opportunity to create a new era for agriculture post-Brexit.

“Government and farmers must now step up to the mark to deliver meaningful and positive change. This will require a ‘can do’ attitude and a commitment on all sides to maximising the opportunities,” she added.

“The background notes to Her Majesty’s speech makes clear the Government’s intentions with a new Agriculture Bill - to 1. provide stability to farmers as we leave the EU and 2. support our farmers to compete domestically and on the global market, allowing us to grow more, sell more and export more great British food.

“Farmers will welcome these pledges. It is also positive that the Conservatives have committed the same level of cash to agriculture and the environment as currently received until 2022. We should now lay that question aside and focus on constructing and delivering future policies that provide scope to build a more competitive, productive and profitable industry. The process should also take into account the needs of the devolved regions and especially the need for flexibility to meet those needs. This must also go hand in hand with the requirement for fairness between all parts of the United Kingdom,” said Mrs Dodds.

“This Bill will be of utmost importance to agriculture, however close attention must also be paid to additional legislative plans, including the Great Repeal Bill, Trade Bill, Customs Bill and Immigration Bill. These will have a clear impact on agriculture and this is something which we will be watching closely as more detail comes to light.

“While all of this is important, the continuing absence of an Executive at Stormont in turn means no Agriculture Minister and the important task of implementation is left to someone else. As this limbo continues there is no devolved voice at a UK policy level, which is to the detriment of the industry. Devolution in Northern Ireland needs willing partners.

“Sinn Fein continues to let farmers down. By preventing a voice at Stormont and abdicating their responsibilities in Westminster they risk losing the opportunity to get the best possible deal for the industry. While the DUP will continue to work hard to form an Executive, we are also the only party in Northern Ireland equipped with real influence at Westminster. Our 10 MPs will continue to pursue the best deal for our people,” Mrs Dodds concluded.