The Ulster Famers’ Union leadership team, policy committee chairs and staff were in London this week meeting with government officials, politicians and representatives from the NFU to feed in the views of Northern Ireland’s farmers on the future of agriculture policy and support in the UK post-Brexit.
UFU president Barclay Bell said: “The Common Agricultural Policy is administered from Brussels so we have spent many years working with the EU institutions and EU farming unions to ensure the realities of farming in Northern Ireland are understood. Now that we are leaving the EU, the UK must devise its own agricultural policy and our focus must turn closer to home. While this is clearly a major challenge it does also present a genuine opportunity to create a system that is more suited to farming in the UK.”
The key broad issues of the future of trade, direct support, access to labour, and regulation were all discussed. In particular, Mr Bell says while the DEFRA Secretary of State, Michael Gove, has clearly indicated that the current agricultural policy will change and that he is supportive of one that delivers strong environmental benefits, our view is that we can deliver a productive, progressive, sustainable and, most importantly, profitable farming sector and we want to work with the Government and other industry partners to realise this.
It is also very clear that decisions have not yet been taken and the Government is keen for ideas. We also understand that there will be considerable scope for regional implementation within an overarching UK framework which we expect to see published by next summer. Depending on the outcome of the ongoing UK/EU negotiations on leaving the European Union, it may also be possible, if a transitional period is agreed, to potentially pilot new measures during this period.
Mr Bell concluded: “We are now entering a time of unprecedented change which presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future of Northern Ireland agriculture and ensure that any future Domestic Agricultural Policy is operationally and strategically right for Northern Ireland’s farming industry.”