Industry urged to tackle volatility

UFU president Ian Marshall, second from left, with deputy presidents Ivor Ferguson and Barclay Bell and UFU Co Down chairman Robert Burgess attending the Co Down President's Area Meeting at Ballynahinch. Picture: Cliff Donaldson
UFU president Ian Marshall, second from left, with deputy presidents Ivor Ferguson and Barclay Bell and UFU Co Down chairman Robert Burgess attending the Co Down President's Area Meeting at Ballynahinch. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

Every grouping within the agri-food sector must take ownership of the volatility challenge and must act in a co-operative manner in order to come up with the required solutions, according to Ulster Farmers’ Union president Ian Marshall.

“And these stakeholder groups include government, the banks and all those organisations directly involved in the production, processing and marketing of food products,” he further explained.

Mr Marshall made these comments while addressing the 2015 Co Down President’s Area Meeting, held earlier this week in Ballynahinch.

“We have spoken to all relevant groups and made it perfectly clear that farmers alone must not be allowed to absorb all of the pressure which volatility creates,” he added.

“The banks have indicated that they will play a proactive role in helping farmers address this challenge.

“But government must also play its part. There are a number of tax related solutions which the Exchequer can consider.

“One of these is the provision for farming businesses to average profits over five years. This approach has already been considered by the authorities in Dublin. And I see no reason why such an option cannot be considered here in Northern Ireland.”

The union president also confirmed that long term supply contracts constitute part of the solution to the volatility challenge.

“But these must also take account of the input costs incurred by producers.”

Turning to the issue of the new CAP support arrangements Ian Marshall related the absolute importance of farmers taking control of their affairs by proving their credentials as an active farmer when submitting their 2015 Single Farm Payment applications. He also indicated that the number of applications received by DARD this year may fall by a figure of 12,000.

This is a direct consequence of previous applicants dropping out of the system as a consequence of the new ‘active farmer’ criteria.

“The fact that there are fewer claimants in the system should allow department staff to process the claims that are received much more effectively and, as a consequence, ensure that farmers get their single payment monies that bit earlier,” he said.

The president also confirmed that the union is doing everything possible to reduce the pressures that cross compliance inspections create for farmers.

“There have been too many instances where the penalties imposed on farmers have been disproportionate with the infringements identified,” he explained.

“We have brought this matter up with the new Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, who has promised to investigate examples of this nature that are specifically brought to his attention. And we fully intend acting on this invitation.”

The President Area meetings will continue throughout January.

Other dates include: County Fermanagh, Monday 12th January at the Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen; County Armagh, Wednesday 14th January at the Armagh City Hotel; County Antrim, Monday 19th January at the Tullyglass Hotel, Ballymena; County Tyrone Wednesday 21st January at the Silver Birch Hotel, Omagh; and County Derry/Londonderry, Monday 26th January at the Lodge Hotel, Coleraine. All meetings start at 8pm.