The Ulster Unionist Party has launched its manifesto for the upcoming general election. The Party has reiterated the need for the creation of a fit-for-purpose payment support scheme before the current guarantee of funds up to 2022 expires.
UUP Leader Robin Swann commented: “The Ulster Unionist Party realises that whilst local farmers did benefit financially from the UK’s membership of the EU, they also were at the brunt end of excessive regulations and a juggernaut seemingly unwilling to show any flexibility or common sense. So it was no surprise that opinion amongst our rural communities was, and still remains, split on Brexit.
“Yet nearly all farmers I speak to agree that what the financial support for agriculture looks like in the future will be absolutely essential for the long-term sustainability of the sector.
“That is why every Ulster Unionist candidate for Thursday’s general election recognises the design of a new land based support model is an absolute priority. Whilst the current level of financial support for farmers will be guaranteed up until 2022, two years longer than what was previously stated, in order to design a fit-for-purpose scheme, it is imperative that preparations start now.
“Following on from our recent Assembly election manifesto that listed a number of key agri-food priorities, the UUP remains convinced that the future viability of the agri-food sector is also dependent on its ability to locate and secure new export markets.
“Whilst there has been some minimal progress over recent years, such as a potential breakthrough into the Chinese pork market, securing final agreements has been slow. We would establish a new dedicated unit within DAERA that would work closely with the Veterinary Service on advocacy and securing new export markets.
“One of the key issues I am hearing on the doorsteps remains the fact that 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 could prove disastrous at such an important time for local farmers.”