The Ulster Farmers’ Union says agricultural output remains the fairest measure for allocating domestic farm funding across the UK and can see no justification for amending the current UK formula.
The comments were made after UFU representatives, including UFU president Ivor Ferguson, met Lord Bew, chair of the current Review of Intra-UK Allocation of Domestic Farm Funding.
The Lord Bew review was commissioned by the UK Government last autumn following requests by the Scottish Government and is gathering evidence on the allocation of convergence funding, specifically how the UK Government distributed additional EU farm funding, received in 2012, to devolved administrations.
UFU president, Ivor Ferguson said: “We stressed in both our previous written submission and in our meeting that the primary objective of Pillar 1 of the CAP is to support farm incomes and the fairest, most equitable way of achieving this is to base it on agricultural output. This provides the fairest reflection of both the historic and current activity in the supported sectors undertaken in each region.
“Indeed, based on this allocation method Scotland actually receives the highest share of CAP Pillar 1 support than any other UK region in terms of supported sector output. Scotland also differentiates direct farm support based on land productivity to restrict the funding on unproductive land. We can see no reason for amending this formula.
“We also emphasised that it was essential that the panel remained within the scope of the review to inform the regional allocations of farm support committed to the end of the current parliament, limited to the amount of convergence funding. To do otherwise would be seen as both interfering with UK devolution and also the design of future devolved agriculture policies.”
The UFU says the possibility of funding allocation adjustments could not come a worse time for Northern Ireland farmers as Brexit approaches.
Mr Fergsuon added: “Northern Ireland’s agriculture supply chain is deeply integrated with the Republic of Ireland (ROI) and is expected could be more adversely affected than any other UK region. Any suggested reduction in the amount of agricultural support for Northern Ireland will cause widespread concern, particularly if farmers in ROI continue to benefit from robust support from the EU.”