Suckler payment could be £160/cow

Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) president Victor Chestnutt is indicating that the new suckler payment, envisaged within Edwin Poots’ future farm support policy document, could be valued at between £140 and £160 per cow.

Saturday, 15th January 2022, 7:32 am

This figure has been arrived at on the back of the proposed suckler support scheme having an annual budget of £40m.

It is thought that a payment of this size would help stabilise suckler numbers across Northern Ireland.

The UFU is also indicating that the proposed beef efficiency measures, also contained within the Poots’ document, will be funded to the tune of £20m per annum.

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However, UFU sources are making it very clear that all of the new support schemes drawn up for Northern Ireland will be very much efficiency driven with farmers having clear targets to meet in this regard.

Victor Chestnutt spoke at the first of the UFU’s winter road shows. The event was held in Ballynahinch earlier this week.

The president made it very clear that future support for farming within the UK would not have a strong food production focus.

“Climate change and farming with the environment are the key drivers for government at the present time,” he explained.

“There is strong support for agriculture at Westminster. But the farming industry must recognise the issues that will encourage politicians to loosen the purse strings, where matters of a rural support nature are concerned.”

Chestnutt made it very clear that farmers will only receive future support payments if they commit to improving the efficiency of their businesses.

He continued:“If farm gate prices were strong enough, farmers would not need support. But this is far from being the case at the present time.”

The Union hierarchy seems to have accepted that the £300m annual budget that will be available to drive future farm policy in Northern Ireland is, pretty much, as good as it is going to get.

However, deputy president David Brown confirmed at the Ballynahinch meeting that the UFU will be seeking additional funds for measures that would bring about generational change on local farms.

“Bog wetting is a case in point,” he stressed.

Union representatives also expressed the view that a ‘green fund’ will be made available to help the UK respond to the challenge of climate change. It is envisaged that the farming industry will be able to draw funding from this source, as required.

Victor Chestnutt told the Ballynahinch meeting that the private members’ climate change bill, sponsored by Green Party MLA Clare Bailey, could decimate agriculture in Northern Ireland, if enacted by Stormont in its present form.

He added:“The bill will be going through its amendments’ stage over the coming weeks. The Union has been in close contact with representatives of all the political parties on this matter.

“And we will be closely monitoring the amendments put forward by MLAs.

“But the fundamental fact remains that Stormont has the time to implement the Bailey bill during the lifetime of the current Assembly and Executive.”

Chestnutt made it clear that he remains committed to hosting a farmer-protest event at Stormont, if the climate change bill is not altered to meet the future needs of agriculture in Northern Ireland in full.

Where bTB policy is concerned, the Union president told the Ballynahinch meeting that change is very much in the air.

He is now confident that Edwin Poots will introduce measures that recognise the role of wildlife in spreading bTB.

The UFU president commented:“Pushing ahead with the bTB eradication policies that have been implemented up to this point will not solve the problem.

“Our wildlife populations are part of the problem, so they must be part of the solution.”

Chestnutt added that the Union will not accept future compensation rates that do not reflect the full value of reactor animals.