Following the early dissolution of the UK Parliament, Ulster Unionist Agriculture Spokesperson Robin Swann MLA has called on both the Labour and Conservative Parties to commit to provide farmers with certainty by guaranteeing CAP payments at the current level up until the end of the next five year term.
Robin Swann, pictured, said: “The decision of the United Kingdom in June 2016 to vote to leave the European Union was hugely significant. What the financial support for agriculture looks like after Brexit will be absolutely essential for the long-term sustainability of the sector.
“Whilst Northern Ireland’s farmers have potentially the most to lose from a bungled Brexit deal, our Province still remains by far the least prepared. The ongoing absence of a Northern Ireland Executive is proving disastrous at such an important time for local farmers.
“The Conservative Party had previously committed to guaranteeing the current cash totals in farm support each year until the end of the current Parliamentary session. That would have been 2022 under normal circumstances, but with the early dissolution of Parliament that guarantee has now gone out the window.
“More worryingly, the reality is there has been very little work actually done to develop a new alternative to the Basic Payment Scheme. It will take years for a fit-for-purpose scheme to be designed and implemented. Even if serious preparations were started right now I suspect a new scheme couldn’t even be in place by 2022.
“That is why I would urge the Tories and Labour to realise the risk that UK farmers are facing. I was disappointed that the Prime Minister didn’t even raise this issue on his recent fleeting visit to Northern Ireland. If payments were to stop, or fall to such a level that makes farming unsustainable, then it could be calamitous for the wider industry.
“That is why the more time farmers have to plan, and are more certain of what the future holds, is so important. Extending the previous guarantee of funds to the end of the next parliamentary term in 2024 is essential in my opinion.
“Agriculture in the UK will shortly be facing a seminal moment. Decisions taken over the next four years will not only affect farmers now but for entire generations. That is why it is essential Northern Ireland sends the maximum number of MPs to Parliament that are prepared to take their seats and put the interests of their constituents ahead of their individual ideological positions.”