Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) president Ivor Ferguson has said that his organisation will work with the new team at Number 10 Downing Street to achieve the best possible Brexit outcome that will enable agriculture in Northern Ireland to flourish.
He was responding to the announcement of Boris Johnson as the new Prime Minister.
“We have continually stressed that leaving the EU without a deal would be catastrophic for Northern Ireland’s farming community,” said Mr Ferguson. “A no-deal outcome resulting in high tariffs to sell into the EU market, lower quality, cheap food imports and a hard border on the island of Ireland, remain the biggest concerns and are ongoing issues regarding Brexit.
“The UFU will continue to lobby with leading political members and the other three UK farming unions. The future of our agriculture industry depends on our capability to reach a deal that will support the Northern Ireland farming community ahead of leaving the EU.”
Commenting in response to Theresa Villiers being appointed as the new Defra Secretary, Mr Ferguson commented: “The Ulster Farmers’ Union previously engaged with Theresa Villiers on several issues whilst she was Northern Ireland Secretary of State and will work closely with her as Defra Secretary of State.”
“We congratulate Ms Villers on her appointment and also want to thank her predecessor Michael Gove for his work as Defra Secretary since June 2017. “Defra Secretary is an important role in government and brings responsibility for the UK’s food and farming industry which is worth £122bn to the UK economy and underpins almost four million jobs.”
Meanwhile, Theresa Villiers says she is honoured to have been asked by the Prime Minister to take on the role of Secretary of State for Defra. She added: “The issues this department deals with are incredibly important and I have championed a number of them, including air quality and animal welfare.
“In the coming weeks I look forward to meeting key stakeholders in the food, farming, fishing and environmental sectors. By working together we can deliver the Government’s historic commitment to leave the environment in a better state than we found it and to seize the opportunities offered by Brexit.”
NFU President Minette Batters says she’s looking forward to working closely with new Defra Secretary of State Theresa Villiers to help forge the positive future of farming and food production in this country.
She says central to that will be to ensure the UK leaves the EU in a smooth and orderly manner, which includes free and frictionless trade with the EU.
Mrs Batters said: “British farming is proud to produce some of the highest quality food in the world. I look forward to working with the new Secretary of State to showcase the incredibly high standards to which British farmers deliver food for the nation, alongside caring for our animals and the countryside. I invite Ms Villiers to join me on my farm so she can see first-hand the work that goes in to producing the country’s food and its potential for the future.
“When it comes to her political priorities, safeguarding Britain’s food producers and our domestic food supply has never been more important. Leaving the EU, our closest neighbours and trading partners, in a smooth and orderly way is vital to allow farm businesses to have a viable and sustainable future – continuing to produce food to some of the highest global standards while protecting and maintaining our iconic British landscape.
“That’s why we urge the new Secretary of State to follow up on the promise of her predecessor and commit to a high-level commission to avoid British food production standards being undermined in the pursuit of post-Brexit trade deals.”
One of the most interesting responses to the appointment of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister has come from Rothamsted Research.
Commenting on Johnson’s pledge ‘to liberate the UK’s extraordinary bio-science sector from anti-genetic modification rules and let’s develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world’, the organisation’s chief executive, Professor Achim Dobermann, said: “Rothamsted Research welcomes the prospect of a more pragmatic approach to the risk assessment of genetically engineered crops, which have already been widely grown around the world - including Europe - for a generation.
“As the world faces the challenge of feeding more and more people from less land and with the least harm to the planet – in the face of climate change and all its associated challenges – we need every possible tool and technology at our disposal to improve our crops, and to make them more nutritious and more resilient.
“What we need in the UK is a more straight-forward process for the regulation of genetically engineered crops, that meets the highest standards in terms of safety, as well as productivity, nutritional value and environmental impact. This can be done in a much smarter way than previously, for example on a trait by trait basis, rather than a blanket ruling across all gene technologies.
“There is also a requirement for better legislation on the specific technique of genome editing that, firstly distinguishes it from other GM technologies, and is differentiated in terms of where it is being applied – whether its crops, microbes, animals or human medicine. Sound ethical decisions and societal consent also play central roles in framing discussions about both GE and GM and how they deliver benefit to the wider public.
“I think if this happens, the whole UK science community would welcome an opportunity to support the new government in this.”