Farm Minister Michelle McIlveen has welcomed a statement from the Treasury giving a firm commitment to maintain current levels of CAP support to farmers out to 2020.
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond MP, said the Government will honour payments to farmers up to 2020 and also scientists, university researchers and infrastructure projects previously funded by the EU.
Minister McIlveen said the move had removed much uncertainty and creates time in which to develop a new approach to domestic agricultural support.
She added: “I know that some will ask what comes beyond 2020, but that was a question we were facing within the EU anyway. At least we now have an opportunity to shape a support regime that is more suited to our needs and one that is not over-burdened with unnecessary bureaucracy. We can now turn our attention to addressing this particular issue, and this important opportunity.
“We will continue to move forward with our plans to deliver our Rural Development Programme, including the forthcoming opening of the Farm Business Investment Scheme and the continued operation of the Business Discussion Groups and Family Farm Key Skills, and the roll out of the Leader programme.
“A well-funded and properly targeted agri-environment measure has to be an important component of our domestic agricultural agenda moving forward, and I will be fighting hard to secure that outcome. Again, we now have the opportunity to develop an approach that meets our needs and is not burdened with unnecessary bureaucracy. This must now be our focus moving forward and I am confident we can achieve a good outcome on this.”
The Minister concluded: “Overall, the announcement by Treasury is the first tangible step on our journey towards EU exit post the referendum as far as agriculture is concerned. This is a positive step and we must now turn our attention to the opportunities that lie ahead”
The announcement from the Treasury has also been welcomed by Ulster Unionist peer Lord Kilclooney, who hailed it has good news for Ulster farmers and many others in Northern Ireland.
He added: “It is the kind of assurance which many required and is really what many of us expected. It is a useful contribution to the testing period as the UK proceeds towards exit from the EU in two or three years’ time. With a gross saving of £20 billion per year the Treasury was always considered to be able to give such financial support after the UK left the EU.
“The recent letter by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister about the impact of Brexit to the Prime Minister was a timely and well balanced contribution to the issues in Northern Ireland which will require to be addressed.
“In addition to the future support for our agriculture industry after 2020 we also need to have an increase in the Block Grant from the Treasury to Stormont to replace the EU Social Fund and Regional Development Fund assistance which previously came from Brussels. With a gross saving of £20 billion per annum this reallocation of funds to Stormont as well as Scotland and Wales should be a real possibility,” Lord Kilclooney added.