Ulster Farmers’ Union deputy president Ivor Ferguson has led a delegation, to Brussels to meet with Mr Pierre Bascou, director of the EU Commission’s Directorate of Direct Support to discuss the land availability issues that are currently facing many of Northern Ireland’s farmers, in particular many potato and vegetable growers.
The meeting was organised by MEPs Jim Nicholson and Diane Dodds following an urgent meeting called by the UFU in late February and which included UFU potato policy committee chair Adrian Jamison and UFU vegetable policy committee chair Roy Lyttle.
UFU deputy president Ivor Ferguson said: “It was a very constructive meeting and it was very useful to be able to meet with senior EU Commission officials to highlight the serious land availability difficulties currently facing potato and vegetable growers here in Northern Ireland.
“We discussed various options that might help ease the situation here and the Commission has said it is prepared to participate in further discussions with the UFU and DARD in an effort to find a satisfactory resolution to the problem.
“For some time now we have been aware of the difficulties many farmers are having in securing land for 2015, in particular vegetable and potato growers, and we have been working to see something put in place to help those farmers affected. The requirements around active farmer under the new CAP and the establishment of new entitlements in 2015 are largely the reason behind the land availability issues and potato and vegetable farmers are particularly vulnerable to land shortages as they need fresh ground annually, relying mostly on neighbours and landowners for ‘clean’ parcels of land in order to grow crops.”
Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson said: “The purpose of this week’s meeting was to highlight the difficulties Northern Ireland’s potato and vegetable growers are experiencing accessing suitable land directly to the relevant European Commission officials.
“As a result of our meeting the European Commission officials have made a commitment to have further discussions with both DARD and the industry. There may be flexibility and options within the CAP package which have not been fully explored. Given the nature of this issue time is clearly of the essence and I urge the department to make the most of this opportunity.”