Last Friday provided an opportunity for representatives of Farmers For Action, the National Beef Association and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association to meet with Lady Hermon on three key issues - Brexit, free trade deals and legislation on farm gate prices for Northern Ireland.
Farmers for Action spokesperson William Taylor said the meeting proved to be very much a two-way street.
He added: “The farm groups represented explained their pro stance on the EU, as whilst not perfect Brussels remains the best we have for agriculture in that there is a frame work of legislation within the Treaties such as the Lisbon Treaty article 39b, a point on which the EU has not yet been held to account by MEPs or rural EU dwellers or EU wide Governments and farm organisations.
“Therefore, exit of the EU should be of grave concern to all NI rural dwellers leading us to the need for legislation on farm gate prices to return farmers a minimum of the cost of production inflation linked plus a margin across the staples, before and if we do indeed leave the EU. Currently there is a legislative route for NI to pass this law when the door opens at Stormont, a route that may not be available if we leave the EU. Free trade deals are also in the headlines at Westminster and Brussels as is the race towards them which will result in needless imports of beef, lamb and other produce,” he added.
“The NI Farm Group representatives explained to Lady Hermon that both the EU and Theresa May’s Government must have forgotten that they signed the Paris Climate change agreement in 2016. This means that if that agreement is meaningful then food ships cannot pass in the night with the same cargo, merely being shipped for profit by the food corporates trying to flood markets to lower farm gate prices, the additional carbon footprint is enormous.
“By example, the EU is virtually self-sufficient in beef yet the Mercusor trade deal would increase imports of beef to the EU by 90,000 tonnes and more from Brazil alone. The Group pointed out that either the Paris Climate Change agreement is nonsense or the Mercusor and other proposed and existing free trade deals are nonsense because the two are clearly not compatible. Having painted the picture of how Brexit, free trade deals and legislation on farm gate prices are linked, documents explaining all were given to Lady Hermon for her and some Westminster colleagues to study.
“In return, Lady Hermon explained her assessment of Michael Gove and his attitude to farming, food and the environment and went further to fully inform the meeting about everything that is happening at Westminster in connection with Northern Ireland,” Mr Taylor added.