Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has said that in 2018 the agriculture industry in the United Kingdom, and specifically Northern Ireland, needs clarity as farmers and the industry are beginning to look forward post Brexit.
He said: “The past year has provided many challenges, but the strength and resilience of the Northern Ireland agricultural industry has been able to face the many difficulties and problems down.
“Now, as we enter 2018, the UK government has a real opportunity to set out in their proposed agricultural white paper, what farming and the wider agri-industry will look like post Brexit. Businesses need certainty and clarity to operate in the market place successfully, and farm businesses are certainly no different.
“Recent DAERA figures highlighted that in 2016, direct payments represent 169 per cent of the value of Farm Business Income in Northern Ireland. And whilst, we are likely to stay within the Common Agricultural Policy regime until 2020, and possibly 2022, there is still a need for DEFRA to spell out what exactly they envisage post Brexit Agriculture to look like.
“The agri-industry is worth almost £5 billion per year to Northern Ireland, so the importance of designing and implementing a fit for purpose agri-policy post Brexit is paramount. I will be keeping a close eye on developments, as the best deal for Northern Ireland needs to be delivered. Unfortunately, without a Stormont Executive and agriculture minister in place, Northern Ireland’s voice in deliberations with DEFRA and the other devolved regions is currently muted.”