Measures a ‘step in right direction’

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The UK farming union presidents have called on the UK authorities and the European Commission to work together to help the UK farming sector, following the announcement of a new package of measures from the EU farm commissioner, Phil Hogan.

Along with the other presidents, the UFU’s Ian Marshall welcomed some of the positive steps announced – but urged decision makers to urgently respond to the current crisis in agriculture.

Tim Lawton pictured with Rachael Shortt at Killinchy YFC's 85th anniversary dinner dance which was held at the La Mon Hotel. For full story and more photographs see page 11. Picture: Rachel Martin

Tim Lawton pictured with Rachael Shortt at Killinchy YFC's 85th anniversary dinner dance which was held at the La Mon Hotel. For full story and more photographs see page 11. Picture: Rachel Martin

Ahead of the meeting of European agriculture ministers, which took place on Monday, the four UK farming union presidents met with the Secretary of State at Defra, Liz Truss. They raised four urgent steps that could bring much needed relief to farmers.

In a joint statement released on behalf of the four presidents said: “Phil Hogan’s package of measures are step in the right direction – we welcome increases to limits for dairy intervention and steps to look into the private storage aid scheme and are very pleased to see that the Commission will establish a meat market observatory – a key UK farming union ask. But there are key steps the Commissioner and Defra could take to help farmers in these difficult times.”

The steps are as follows:

“Removing tariffs on imported fertiliser is of the utmost importance. The differential between global and European fertiliser prices has now reached €100/tonne – lifting this burden could really help UK farmers to become more competitive against our global counterparts.

“Work with the European Investment Bank needs to be speeded up. There are a range of financial instruments but we need to understand how best this will work and what farmers can do to benefit from EIB lending. We very much welcome Mr Hogan’s announcement that he will prioritise this work – we urge him to keep his foot on the accelerator as much as possible. This is something we will be urgently taking forward with Defra, the Treasury and banks.

“Greater market transparency is key. With the right information and market signals, farmers will be able to respond and adjust their output accordingly. Consequently, we look forward to playing a key role in the setting up of the Meat Market Observatory

“Reviewing the dairy intervention price could stabilise prices in the milk market, providing much needed support to the sector.”

The presidents’ statement concluded: “We believe the Agri-Markets Taskforce set up by Mr Hogan is playing an important role in better understanding the market conditions and the tools that could be used to eliminate volatility. We support the steps being taken in the UK and Brussels to future proof the industry – but we must not ignore the reality that farmers cannot plan for a long-term future if short-term prospects are bleak.”