The Ulster Farmers’ Union says that while it welcomes the fact that the European Commission has recognised the crisis facing agriculture, what has been delivered falls far short of what is needed to help farming families through the difficult autumn and winter the industry faces.
“We have pushed hard to get to this point, but we are going to have to push a lot harder to get the Commission to deliver something more meaningful than the package that emerged in Brussels on Monday,” said Ulster Farmers’ Union president, Ian Marshall.
Speaking from Brussels, he added that it was encouraging the Commission had come up with a package of measures – but said there were few new ideas and that the amount of ‘new money’ proposed for national envelopes for the dairy sector was small, given the scale of the crisis and the need to spread funding across 28 member states although the details of this had to be further clarified.
Mr Marshall said it was a particular blow for Northern Ireland that the Commission had rejected an increase in the intervention support price for dairy products at this stage although this is to be examined further later this week at the EU’s Special Committee for Agriculture (SPA) meeting with France, in particular pressing for a temporary increase.
“We still believe this would have helped put a floor into the market – and the rejection of this thinking was despite a well-argued case for an increase having been put forward by a number of member states, and by political and industry representatives from Northern Ireland,” he said.
The package will bring some additional aid for dairy and pig farmers, but the UFU says other sectors also facing tough times have been largely ignored. While the Commission confirmed, as expected, that member states will be able to make early CAP payments this will likely be improbable in Northern Ireland.
“What emerged was in line with forecasts before the meeting – and it is unfortunate that thousands of protesting farmers did not persuade the Commission it needed to be more generous. What we have is a deep crisis, largely caused by events over which farmers have no control. What the Commission produced was an unimaginative response, when what was needed was radical thinking,” said Mr Marshall.
He added that the coming months, and the financial pressures they would bring, will confirm that the Commission approach is one of dealing with what it sees as minor difficulties, when what was needed were solutions for a once in generation crisis for farming families.