Ulster Farmers’ Union sets out UK ‘exit goals’

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union has drawn up a list of priorities, as the long process of negotiating a replacement for the CAP begins.

UFU president, Barclay Bell, says the outcome of these negotiations will shape the future of agriculture – but he has warned that the process will demand patience.

“There are no quick fix solutions out there. Farmers need to understand that this will be a slow and often frustrating process. However we have to start with a road map of where we want to go. That is why we believed that it was crucial, even at this early stage, to set out what we consider the priorities are for the negotiations,” said Mr Bell.

The list of ten priority areas, identified following a meeting of the Unions Policy Officeholders, are focussed on the key issues of support for agriculture and trade, both in terms of access to export markets and protecting the UK from a surge of cheap imports as the government seeks to negotiate new trade deals inside and outside the post-Brexit EU.

The UFU’s key principles are:

- Best possible access to European markets and to continue/secure additional trade agreements outside the EU

- Action to ensure UK production and food security is not undermined by lower standard imports

- Establishing Northern Ireland as an International centre of excellence for plant and animal health/breeding

- Maintaining support to farmers equivalent to that presently provided by the EU

- Maintaining Northern Ireland’s current share of farm support provided by the EU to the UK

- Targeting future local farm support at those who take the financial risks in primary food production

- A reduced and simplified regulatory burden based on science and applying an ‘advocacy first, regulation second’ approach

- Securing policies to improve the efficiency, competitiveness and sustainability of farming, linked to a better operating and fairer food supply chain

- Maintaining access to seasonal and full time labour

- Minimising disruption to existing trade relationships between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Mr Bell stressed that these were initial priorities and that the next step would be to secure support for these from the Executive which he said needed to recognise, in its negotiations, in London, the importance of farming and food to the local economy.

He added: “We will also meet with the other main UK farming unions and will discuss our priorities at a meeting next week with the other EU farm unions represented in COPA.”