Poots gives clarity on 2021 BPS year

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has welcomed clarity from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Minister Edwin Poots, regarding the 2021 basic payment scheme (BPS) year.

Saturday, 13th March 2021, 7:37 am

He confirmed at Stormont earlier this week that it will not be used as an historic year for future farm support.

Responding, UFU president Victor Chestnutt said:“The clarity from the DAERA Minister that the 2021 BPS year will not be used as an historic year for future farm support, is useful.

“We’ve received a large volume of calls from members who were under threat of losing conacre as landowners were speculating about future payment systems and a possible reference period. 

“The clarity on the issue has come at a vital time before it could escalate into a much bigger problem.”

The DAERA Minister has confirmed that it isn’t DAERA’s intention to use things in 2021...“which would lock people into circumstances for many years to come” and that “if people previously let land and, if that is something that they want to keep doing, that is something that they should continue to do”.

The Union president concluded: “We look forward to continuing to work with the DAERA Minister and DAERA officials, to determine what a future NI Agriculture Policy should look like to ensure it delivers for local farming and food production.”

Courtesy of his presentation to the Agriculture Committee at Stormont, Minister Poots outlined his priorities for the future for agriculture in Northern Ireland. He referred to four the attainment of four outcomes. These are:

- An industry that pursues increased productivity as a measure of sustained profitability in international terms; closing the productivity gap which has been opening up with other major suppliers.

- An industry that is environmentally sustainable in terms of its impact on, and guardianship of, air quality, soil health, carbon footprint and biodiversity.

- An industry that displays improved resilience to external shocks (such as market and currency volatility, extreme weather events) which are ever more frequent and to which the industry has become very exposed.

- An industry which operates within an integrated, efficient, sustainable, competitive and responsive supply chain, with clear market signals and an overriding focus on high quality food and the end consumer.

Looking to the future, when it comes to delivering better, productivity, environmental performance, resilience and functioning supply chains, Minister Poots sees a role for a simplified area based income support safety net set at a level which doesn’t blunt innovation or productivity.

He also foresees a role for coupled support targeting, for example, suckler cow and breeding ewe producers.

This would not be a return to the old coupled payments of the past. He said they need to explore how coupled support can be designed to drive better economic and environmental performance and not just be another means of allocating payments to farmers.

Significantly, the DAERA Minister also recognises the central role for agri-environment measures that will deliver clear outcomes with regard to air quality, water quality, biodiversity, soil health and Northern Ireland’s landscape.

Minister Poots also believes strongly that agriculture must link its environmental ambitions with farm economic activity.

He told Agriculture Committee members that his ultimate aim is to ensure that farming and food in Northern Ireland take full advantage of the opportunities presented to now that the UK has exited the EU.

This will entail the development of a sustainable agricultural industry in which all farmers are supported on an equitable basis.