The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says this year’s exchange rate used to convert Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments to sterling remains in local farmers’ favour.
UFU president, Ivor Ferguson, said the exchange rate remains strong and 20 per cent above pre-Brexit referendum levels in 2016 and 2015.
He added: “It will provide a much needed cash boost on farms and a solid financial platform for the year ahead, where we are facing many uncertainties in relation to Brexit.”
The figure to convert euro payments from Brussels to sterling will be £0.89281 and is slightly down from 2017.
The UFU also welcomed DAERA’s efforts to make advance payments in October for the third consecutive year at the increased EU permitted level of 70 per cent of a claim value.
Ferguson continued: “It has been a mixed bag this year for farmers. We had a wet start to the year but in many areas the dry spell we had this summer helped give a boost to many farm businesses. While in other areas, the hot, dry weather posed many challenges. Regardless, the continued strong conversion rate and early payments will be a welcome cash flow boost on farms,” said the UFU president.
Meanwhile Northern Ireland Environment Link (NIEL) chairman Patrick Casement has endorsed the future farm policy direction recently set out by Department of Farming, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Secretary Michael Gove MP in his Agriculture Bill.
Casement believes the greater focus on environmental support will help deliver a more efficient and innovation-based farming sector here in Northern Ireland. Speaking on BBC radio he said that farm policy should have a common theme right across the UK. Future DEFRA policy priorities focus on the securing of improved soil air and water quality.
For its part, the UFU wants to see regional flexibility when it comes to designing a new domestic agriculture policy.
“In our initial review of the Bill, we are pleased to see provisions in place that take into consideration the current political situation in Northern Ireland,” said the UFU president.
“In particular, it allows for a continued legal basis to ensure, as far as possible, that the status quo in terms of agricultural support can be continued until a new policy direction can be established.
“It is good news, despite the absence of Stormont, that the Agriculture Bill recognises our needs are different from the other regions. It sets out that it will not pre-judge or constrain the ability of an incoming Minister, NI Executive and Assembly to decide what is appropriate for the NI agri-food sector. However, we accept there will be some overarching UK frameworks to ensure common standards and prevent unfair competition.”