The Ulster Farmers’ Union has hosted its annual meeting with the UK and Irish Farming Unions to discuss current agricultural issues.
Topics discussed included producer prices, CAP implementation, relationships between suppliers and retailers, the Groceries Code Adjudicator, and EU other policies which will impact on agriculture.
UFU President Ian Marshall said that it is always useful to sit down with their UK and Irish Farming Union counterparts to discuss key agricultural issues.
He added: “In many instances we often find that the Unions have similar policy positions and this is extremely useful when we are lobbying at a national and EU level as it makes the collective voice of farmers that much stronger.
“From our discussions, difficulties with the CAP implementation process seem to be a common theme across the UK so it might be some consolation to farmers here that producers across the water are equally as frustrated. Relationships between retailers and suppliers was also high on the agenda as there is still much work to be done to ensure there is fair play in the supply chain and fair prices paid to producers. The new powers awarded to the Groceries Code Adjudicator have been welcomed by all of the UK Unions and will go some of the way in helping to address our supply chain concerns, however, all the Unions are in favour of seeing the GCA’s remit expanded further, and in particular to allow her to investigate complaints directly from primary producers.”
Mr Marshall said producer prices and profitability across many farming sectors continues to be a significant issue not only in Northern Ireland but across the UK and Ireland.
“As agriculture becomes an increasing global discipline, fluctuations in markets both home and abroad are contributing to producer price volatility. An ideal example of the collective power of the UK Unions when it comes to lobbying around a common interest was the recent announcement by the UK Chancellor George Osborne to extend the farmer profit averaging window from two years to five, a decision heavily influenced by the four UK Unions.
“Discussions at the meeting also centred around EU Commissioner Phil Hogan’s potential plans for simplifying the CAP. All of the UK Unions have submitted proposals to the Commissioner’s simplification review and in many respects our views are largely similar. Current cross-compliance regulations are overzealous and we have all red-flagged that an approach that accepts that farmers are dealing with ‘real world’ practical situations is crucial.”