Ulster Unionist Party Leader Robin Swann has welcomed the commitment in the Queens Speech that an Agriculture Bill will be introduced to provide an ongoing level of support to farmers after the UK leaves the European Union.
Robin Swann, a past Chairman of the Rural Youth Europe organisation and former President of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster, said:
“There is currently a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the future support for agriculture once the UK leaves the European Union. Whilst the Conservative Party had previously guaranteed current rates of farm payments up to 2022, following the much weakened position that Theresa May now finds herself in even this can no longer be taken for granted.
“I was pleased therefore that amongst the 27 Bills that were announced in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon there was a dedicated piece of legislation to ensure an effective system is in place to support UK farmers and protect the natural environment after the UK leaves the EU and therefore the Common Agricultural Policy.
“Whilst there is a danger that any new Agriculture Bill may be open to amendment it does at least give the clearest commitment to date that the UK Government will put in law a full structure of support once we move away from the current EU framework. Whilst there are so far few concrete proposals as to what this support would look like, it did at least signal the start of the process,” said Mr Swann.
“The promise from the UK Government that it will consult widely with the devolved administrations on the Bill and what this future agriculture support will look like is of course also welcome, but without a local Assembly or Executive Northern Ireland’s farmers would once again be left without a voice and opportunity to input to the policy.
“Such a scenario could possibly prove disastrous for local farmers as Scotland in particular is likely to push for major changes on how the overall allocation for farming support is distributed across the regions.
“It is just a further example of how those Parties who are currently putting their own interests ahead of securing agreement at Stormont could very soon find themselves being responsible for serious damage not only to our farmers, but a great deal of other support and key public services.”