Politics must deliver for farming community: Byrne

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SDLP Agriculture Spokesperson Joe Byrne MLA has said that the coming years will present significant challenges for Northern Ireland as a Tory government takes shape and that the farming community must be protected from plans which will devastate the agriculture industry.

Mr Byrne was speaking after visiting this year’s Balmoral Show.

He said: “I met many farmers and representatives from farming businesses at today’s Balmoral show. While people were generally in good form, enjoying the spectacle of the excellent Balmoral Show, there was genuine concern for the challenges that could face the farming community in the coming years.

“Local farmers continue to be worried about farm gate prices and the significant effect that the euro exchange rate will have on Single Farm Payments this year. That’s why the SDLP advocated targeted intervention to support farmgate prices during the Westminster election campaign and it’s something we intend to follow up on in the new parliament.

“Farmers are also well tuned into the fact that a Conservative majority government will undoubtedly begin preparations for a referendum on membership of the European Union. The fact of the matter is that while the Tories pander to their middle England core vote, withdrawal from the European Union would have a devastating impact on our agriculture industry which continues to receive support and assistance from the EU. The industry understands the scale of the threat facing us and that’s why the vast majority of farmers, their representatives and Agri-food sector businesses are absolutely opposed to leaving Europe.

“The SDLP understands these concerns and as the most Pro-European party in Northern Ireland, we’ll fight to defend the livelihoods of farmers who rely on European support. That’s why we’ve called for a devolution lock to ensure that each devolved nation must vote in favour of leaving the European Union before the result would be binding. We should not be forced out of Europe based on the whims of English Tories. The SDLP will continue to fight for that alongside the progressive parties at Westminster.

“The RUAS are to be commended once again for organising this showcase farming event which demonstrates the quality and importance of the farming industry to the Northern Ireland economy.”