We need a strong budget for agri

MEP Diane Dodds
MEP Diane Dodds

DUP MEP Diane Dodds gives her thoughts after another interesting week for UK agriculture which included DEFRA Secretary Michael Gove’s speech to the NFU conference and renewed talk of budget cuts to the EU agriculture budget.

This week Michael Gove in his address to the NFU Conference highlighted the need post-Brexit for a UK wide framework for agriculture that ensures fairness within the UK internal market. It is clear that this framework will provide a basis for all regions of the UK but a devolution max model will then follow. This will allow all regions of the UK to have flexibility to deliver policy which best suits their needs. If implemented correctly, with the appropriate finances and consultation with the industry, we will have an agriculture policy which will drive the industry forward.

I think it is extremely interesting that since the Brexit result came along the cry has been that UK farmers would face major cuts to direct support leaving many farmers financially bankrupt. However that hasn’t been the case. I agree with the need for a strong budget for agriculture. It is vital that support is given toward ensuring high-quality food production, safeguarding the environment and ensuring the social fabric of rural areas is sustained. This will only be achieved by supporting farmers financially through appropriate support mechanisms. There is even an argument for spending more money on agriculture to help tackle the wider environmental issues which are coming down the track.

There is no doubt post-2020 that agriculture in the EU will face a number of new challenges, including Brexit. The fact that the UK will no longer be a net contributor to the CAP budget raises the need to consider budget cuts, co-finance or raise new monies through taxation. Three options have been mooted in Europe regarding the budget. These are the status quo, a 15% reduction or 30% reduction in the CAP budget. These scenarios will have really damaging consequences for EU farmers. Another potential drain on the CAP budget will be the potential impact of a no-deal scenario for trade with the UK. For example 39% of all the Republic of Ireland’s agri-food exports go to the UK. If we have no deal this would have a major impact on the sustainability of Irish farmers. The displacement of goods may also have an impact on mainland Europe.

It is imperative that Europe deals pragmatically with these issues to ensure a sustainable future for EU farmers.