Unions press for progress

UFU annual meeting at Greenmount. Picture: Cliff Donaldson
UFU annual meeting at Greenmount. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

The leaders of the UK farm unions, meeting in Belfast, have agreed to press for more rapid progress to secure an involvement by the European Investment Bank (EIB) in agriculture.

This was promised as part of the recent Brussels package to tackle the agricultural markets crisis – and Ulster Farmers’ Union president, Ian Marshall who hosted the meeting, says there was agreement that we needed to develop innovative solutions to support farms and promote wider industry investment using EIB.

“We see the EIB brings great opportunities to agriculture. These include the restructuring of farm borrowing, match funding rural development programmes and supporting wider industry investment,” he said.

In all parts of the UK, farmers are facing a cash flow crisis. This highlights the vital importance of timely payment of the BPS. UK officeholders demanded that sufficient resources must be made available to ensure that the 2015 payments across the UK are delivered and that the similar debacle is averted in future years.

Also on the agenda of the farm leaders’ summit were problems along the food supply chain from farm to supermarket shelf.

“We all have concerns about some of the things going on. These include imports of New Zealand lamb last year and again this year at times when local lamb is readily available. We are also concerned by the use of fictitious farm brands on packaging to potentially mask the origin of products. What we all want is more honesty from retailers – and consumers being given the chance to buy local food, with proper quality provenance which we as farmers have worked hard to establish,” said Mr Marshall.

Also discussed were the 2017 mid-term review of the CAP, developments on several on-going EU trade negotiations, the possible impact of climate change on agriculture, the UK’s Referendum on EU membership, fertiliser tariff removal, dairy supply chain management and the present EU discussions on renewing the approval of glyphosate.

The meeting was held to coincide with the UFU’s annual dinner, which this year celebrated the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink.

“The message of the summit was a clear one,” said Mr Marshall. “We fight best for farming when we do so together across the UK and Ireland and through COPA in Europe,” he said.