Unrepeatable opportunity to forge new agri-future

UFU president Barclay Bell
UFU president Barclay Bell

Northern Ireland has an opportunity to rehape its most important industry in the wake of the UK’s departure from the EU the head of the Ulster Farmers’ Union has claimed.

Launching a discussion document at a breakfast event at the Balmoral Show UFU president Barclay Bell warned that many aspects of the that future remained uncertain.

While the UK government has promised support for 2019 he said new deal must maintain EU-type standards.

“The Union has argued that post-Brexit support for farmers must be at least equivalent to that provided by the EU and that Northern Ireland must retain its current share of this farm support. The delivery system for this funding is likely to change and we have an ideal opportunity to design one that is better suited to UK agriculture and creates conditions for a more productive, sustainable and resilient agriculture sector.”

The document, he said, outlines options for a new Domestic Agricultural Policy with baseline measures, that would be accessible to all, and modular measures, which could be applied for.

“Any new system must be kept simple and must be targeted at those who actively take the risks in primary food production,” he said, adding a warning that failing to support farmers would have serious consequences for food security, the wider agri-food industry, the environment and rural areas.

“The UK is only 61 per cent self sufficient when it comes to food, and without support for farmers there is a real danger that this will continue to decline. Farming is important to the public. Shoppers trust locally produced food; they know what they are getting is safe, high quality, and affordable. They want to see a productive and resilient farming industry that also continues to look after the countryside.”