The DUP’s Diane Dodds has confirmed that the Westminster confidence and supply agreement reached between her party and the Conservatives can help secure the current level of farm support funding up to 2022.
“This is a UK-wide agreement, which has the potential to last for up to five years,” she said. “It will help deliver certainty for farmers here in Northern Ireland up to and beyond Brexit. This contrasts with the growing uncertainty that now exists within the EU regarding future levels of funding for the Common Agricultural Policy.
“Brexit will create a €3 billion annual shortfall in Europe’s farm support budget, relative to what is currently available. It now seems inevitable that some remaining EU member states will have to pay even more and receive less in return. The Brexit black hole now needs filled.
“However, I am pleased that, post-Brexit, farm businesses in Northern Ireland will not have to grapple with the same uncertainty now abounding in Brussels.
“The stability offered for direct support until the end of the current parliament must provide the space and security to construct a new and lasting agriculture framework which makes farming more profitable, sustainable and productive.”
The MEP confirmed that discussions will get underway very shortly, which will lead to the publication of a White Paper for UK agriculture.
“This process should bring about the development of new policies, which will provide greater levels of support for production agriculture,” she said.
“The Agriculture Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and will require new ideas including innovative means of delivering agricultural funding.
“It is vital that Northern Ireland plays an active part in this process. In general terms, as the transfer of EU powers into UK law takes effect, it is vital that local Ministers are in place to embrace the opportunities and address the challenges that this brings.
Dodds added: “It is encouraging that farmers, politicians and agriculture commentators in Great Britain recognise the significance of this agreement reached in London, not least in relation to the funding commitment, but also on the basis of the DUP’s track record of supporting agriculture and rural dwellers.
“As this term at Westminster gets underway, we will continue to play our part in delivering the best possible deal for agriculture.”
Dodds said that the DUP has delivered an additional £1 billion of spending, which will benefit all the people of Northern Ireland.
“This money was hard fought for and while it will be best spent by a functioning Executive at Stormont the Government has agreed that it is not dependent on the restoration of the institutions.
“We view this outcome as the first step toward delivering the commitments made in our manifesto and repaying those who put their faith in us at the ballot box in June’s election. As a Party we are committed to using our influence to make Northern Ireland a more prosperous place to live and work.
“This deal also reflects the DUP’s deep commitment to supporting farmers, agri-food and rural communities. Agriculture is a key economic policy area for this Party and one for which we have a strong track record of delivery. Central to our agreement with the Conservatives is a clear recognition of the important role that farm businesses and the wider agri-food sector play not only in Northern Ireland but across the United Kingdom.”
According to Dodds, rural businesses in Northern Ireland also face unique challenges to compete. She believes that it is vital, through the £150 million ring fenced for broadband provision, that enterprises in agri-food, manufacturing, tourism and other key sectors benefit from the greater connectivity and growth opportunities flowing from it.
“It is also critical that the Government’s positive commitment to using its embassies in promoting Northern Ireland exports and attract foreign and direct investment brings prosperity to all corners of our province.
“We will ensure that this opportunity is grasped with both hands for our agri-food sector in particular.”