2016 brought changes to the political arena that will last for generations. The DUP are in the strongest position to lobby for the industry at every level of governance: in Brussels, Westminster, at Stormont, and within our local councils.
The DUP has held the DAERA portfolio since early 2016 and we have a proven track record of listening, understanding and acting on the needs of the farming industry.
During this period we ensured that for the first time ever advance payments were issued to farmers at the earliest possible date in October, with the vast majority of payments being issued by the end of December. We delivered payments to farmers on time even though they had been inspected by remote sensing. We were delighted to open a 40% capital grant for farmers that has been put in place to assist them in sustainably growing their business. We have committed to placing greater emphasis on research and development by supporting the work of AFBI.
The DUP also brought forward a scheme that pays for the removal of BVD infected calves and introduced a new environmental farming scheme that delivers for farmers throughout Northern Ireland.
This is just a snapshot of what we have achieved in a short space of time. We are now seeking a new mandate to continue what we have started and to work to ensure that Northern Ireland farmers get the best possible deal outside of the EU.
There are a number of key objectives that the DUP want out of Brexit discussions.
In terms of trade agreements, the DUP wishes to see the continued movement of livestock and agri-food products between the UK and the rest of the EU. This will include the movement of goods between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. We are opposed to any trade barriers such as customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. We want to have continued access to non-EU markets on the same terms as we currently have from the day that we leave the EU.
The DUP believes that there should be protection for UK agri-food products and we will oppose trade deals being done in a fashion that would undermine local production as a result of cheaper products being imported from throughout the world.
The DUP supports the need for transitional arrangements to be put in place to allow farmers to adjust to new support mechanisms and that any transitional arrangements ensure access to markets post-Brexit.
During the referendum campaign it was clear that farmers felt frustrated by rules and regulations imposed on their businesses by the EU. The DUP realises that we need legislation to protect farmers, consumers and the environment. The DUP will ensure that future ‘red tape’ is simplified, proportionate and delivers tangible outcomes.
Many farmers are looking forward to the huge opportunity that lies ahead and we are committed to ensuring that farming in Northern Ireland is at the centre of all future negotiations.