DUP MEP Diane Dodds has reiterated the message that agriculture in Northern Ireland will be supported best by a strong team of DUP MPs at Westminster over the next five years.
This week I have been playing my part in the Westminster Election campaign by canvassing for various DUP politicians throughout Northern Ireland.
I have spent time talking to farmers in many rural constituencies throughout Northern Ireland.
There are many issues that rural dwellers are quick to raise on the doorsteps. Following the initial concerns about the impact of the early morning frosts hitting grass growth, farmers are quick to raise concerns about the new Single Application Forms application process. Whilst some farmers have already submitted their application form on-line many farmers are still concerned about the new greening mechanism that is in place and uncertainly over the availability of con-acre land. DARD needs to continue to work with farmers over the coming weeks to deal with queries raised by farmers as they fill in their application forms.
The other issue that is concerning farmers is the price that they are getting paid for their produce. This concern seems to be affecting all sectors and ranges from cereal producers to beef and sheep and dairy farmers. All sectors are struggling by a combination of a strong pound compared to the Euro and pressure from the multiple retailers driving down the prices to processors and farmers.
There is no doubt that the new labelling legislation from Europe, and introduced from the 1 April, is having a major impact on sheep producers selling lambs to slaughter plants in the Republic of Ireland.
This legislation is a reversal of the ‘nomad’ cattle issue impacting on farmers buying store cattle in the Republic of Ireland and slaughtering them in Northern Ireland plants. This is yet again another example of how Europe has interfered in trade between two neighbouring countries and rather than improving trading relationships between two exporting countries they are introducing trade barriers. Both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland rely on exporting produce to GB, Europe and the wider world.
This week I was at the launch of the Dairy Council export event looking at new markets in regions like the Middle East, China and Russia. This is an excellent scheme which should help out local industry open new markets.
There is no doubt that farmers are becoming increasingly frustrated in the bureaucracy coming from Brussels and agree with the DUP that we need to bring more powers back to Westminster. Over the last 10 years there has been no inflationary increase to the single farm payments being issued to farmers. Dairy farmers have to face very low prices for their milk whilst Europe continues to deny that there are difficulties in the sector and refuses to introduce a sensible intervention price to underpin the market. Many farmers are also facing increased environmental regulation through the new greening mechanism included in the new single farm payment. It is vital that farmers throughout Northern Ireland take time out of their busy schedule and vote in the Westminster election next Thursday. The DUP are the only Party who will be able to hold the new DEFRA Minister to account over the next five years. The DUP have a range of priorities for rural communities over the next five years. We want DEFRA to assist with the opening of new, high value, export markets in countries like China and America.
The DUP will continue to work to ensure that money is targeted towards productive farmers and support the creation of a farm development scheme. We will also continue to work to ensure that there is a clamp-down in crime in rural areas throughout Northern Ireland.
The DUP are the only party who will be in the position to influence politics in Westminster.