The Ulster Farmers’ Union says it is disappointed by the decision taken by DAERA Minister, Michelle McIlveen, to deny growers in Northern Ireland coupled support for protein crops.
Earlier this week the Minister announced Dthat Pillar I funds for farmers will not be reduced to fund future support to Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) and that Coupled Support will not be introduced.
“As a region Northern Ireland are dependent on imported plant protein, led by soya. Compared with other EU member states arable farmers here are limited in the number of break crop choices available, due to the climate and by taking this decision, DAERA have once again placed us at a competitive disadvantage,” said UFU Seeds and Cereals Chairman, Allan Chambers.
The UFU says it sees no reason for DAERA to deny growers in Northern Ireland coupled support for protein crops.
“Our fellow growers, who farm only a few miles away, south of the border, receive a coupled payment that equates to around £200/ha giving them a commercial advantage. The funding necessary to provide a coupled payment would have equated to an insignificant decrease in all existing SFP payments and it would have helped rebalance our cereal output by giving a much needed wider choice in pursuing best practice in crop rotation,” said Mr Chambers.
Mr Chambers added that AgriSearch, NIGTA and the AFSB arable and horticulture sub group have also raised concerns about the dependency of the local livestock sector on imported protein sources. Indeed DAERA itself has considered this to be important to the extent that it co-funds a specific research project into the use of locally grown protein in dairy cow rations with early indications suggesting that these trials are proving successful.
“The Minister states she ‘does not believe there are any convincing arguments to introduce Coupled Support Schemes in Northern Ireland during the current CAP period’, yet the potential to do so with protein crops received substantial support from those who responded to that question within the consultation document. Surely this response deserved, at least, a discussion with senior officials,” said Mr Chambers adding that the Minister will be invited to visit an arable farm so that the issue can be discuss further.