Co-ordinated response needed - MEP

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Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has called for a co-ordinated approach in dealing with the crisis facing agriculture across the EU.

Speaking after a European Parliament debate with Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan this week on the difficulties facing the industry, Mr Nicholson warned that things could get worse if concerns about free trade deals are not taken on board.

He said: “I am glad the European Commission has now woken up to the crisis facing agriculture. In all my almost 27 years in this Parliament, I have not witnessed so many sectors facing so much difficulty at the same time.

“I understand that there are no easy solutions to the many problems facing agriculture, and I welcome the various measures the Commissioner has taken to date, not least the €500million package of targeted aid announced last year. However, I have to say that it increasingly seems that with the Commission, the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. On the one hand, Commissioner Hogan says he is doing all he can to help producers deal with the market situation. But on the other hand, it seems to me that the Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström is using agriculture as a bargaining chip in free trade negotiations.

“Although TTIP may end up on the backburner until after the US Presidential election, talks with Mercosur are intensifying and these pose a real threat to the beef sector in NI and beyond.”