The leadership of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) will be pushing to secure additional support for the suckler industry over the coming months.
This was the main issue discussed at a press conference hosted by the Union’s office bearers in Belfast earlier this week.
“The new measures will meet the needs of producers in both hill and lowland areas,” confirmed UFU president Ivor Ferguson.
“Our beef and lamb committee will be looking at possible support options for the sector as a matter of priority. These include coupled payments on suckler cows, calves and a mix of environmental support options.
“It’s important that we come up with schemes that provide suckler producers with additional income streams. The profitability of beef production is extremely marginal at the present time with most suckler farmers losing significant amounts of money.
“The markets on their own are not strong enough to fix this problem. Nor is it a case of simply telling farmers that they must become more efficient.
“We need a sustainable suckler sector in Northern Ireland.”
Ferguson added: “Assuming that we have a transition period agreed as part of the final Brexit deal, there is every prospect that Northern Ireland will have a fair degree of autonomy when it comes to settling future support measures for the farming industry as a whole.”
Union chief executive Wesley Aston believes that action can be taken on these possible support options for the beef industry within a relatively short period of time.
“There may well be money that can be drawn from the current Rural Development programme to help kick start this process,” he said.
Commenting on the potential impact of Brexit, Ivor Ferguson highlighted the dangers that would be created for the farming industry if the UK left Europe without a deal.
“All of the food processors are telling us this will be the case, if we are looking at a No Deal scenario. And we must take their lead on the matter,” he added.
“A No Deal Brexit must be avoided at all costs.”
On the issue of future funding for the farming industry as a whole, Wesley Aston is confident that the share out of monies within the various regions of the UK will be on the same basis as that which is already in place.
“The principle of this case has already been highlighted by the Union at Westminster,” he said.
“However, we don’t know yet how much total funding will be made available for the various farming sectors throughout the UK once London takes over the role of driving policy for the industry as a whole.”
The Union’s presidential team is very conscious of the challenges posed by strengthening environmental standards as the farming industry looks
to the future.
“However, we believe it will be easier to deal with London on these matters than is currently the case with the EU Commission in Brussels,” commented union deputy president Victor Chesnutt.