With an important General Election a matter of days away Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has said that Ulster Unionist MPs will deliver for Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry and rural communities.
Commenting Mr Nicholson said: “Agri-food is the backbone of the local economy. Quite simply if agri-food is doing well Northern Ireland is doing well.
“It is important that the needs of the industry and of our rural communities are energetically represented in the House of Commons. This is especially the case as it is Defra Ministers who represent the UK as a whole at the EU negotiating table when it comes to many of the key issues that impact upon the daily lives of Northern Ireland’s farmers, fishermen, rural businesses and families.
“These issues of course include leading negotiations on the CAP and CFP, plus; crucial trade negotiations and the regulations which govern the use of pesticides or relate to animal welfare.
“From my perspective as a Member of the European Parliament I have seen first-hand how UK Ministers have often been too slow to defend the interests of Northern Ireland’s farmers. For example, as one of the MEPs directly involved in the CAP negotiations I saw how the Defra Secretary of State’s reluctance to fight for additional Pillar II funds resulted in the UK receiving the worst Rural Development allocation.
“More recently UK Ministers have refused to push the European Commission to review the intervention price which would be a useful step in providing market stability for dairy farmers. As we know Northern Ireland is the UK’s second largest dairy producing region and farmers here are more heavily exposed to market volatility than their GB counterparts. This again highlights the need to have strong voices in the House of Commons fighting for the industry locally,” added Mr Nicholson.
“The particular needs of farmers and fishermen vary between the UK’s various regions. The profile of the Northern Ireland industry and our rural landscape differ greatly from say East Anglia where large arable farms are more the norm. We are of course the only part of the UK to have a land border with another EU Member State which means the challenges and opportunities facing our producers have an added dimension.
“It is therefore crucial that Northern Ireland agri-food and rural communities have representatives in Westminster who understand local concerns and priorities and who have the ability and energy to deliver – Ulster Unionist candidates have these skills.
“Ulster Unionists are determined to champion agri and rural issues in Westminster; less red-tape, fair play for producers from the large retailers plus accessing and developing new export markets are just some of the priorities my party’s colleagues will focus on as MPs.”
Mr Nicholson concluded: “Ulster Unionists will work as a team at council, Assembly, Westminster and European level to help ensure that the industry is well placed to overcome future challenges and make the most of future opportunities.
“This is a crucial election, 7 May is one chance to ensure that Northern Ireland has MPs who can deliver for agri-food, our rural communities and Northern Ireland as a whole – I would ask you to support your Ulster Unionist candidate on Thursday.”