Balmoral Show: Dairy farmers split on EU referendum

Brian and Georgina McCord from Hillsborough are still undecided on which way to vote in the EU referendum
Brian and Georgina McCord from Hillsborough are still undecided on which way to vote in the EU referendum

The dairy farmers who spoke to the News Letter about Brexit at the Balmoral Show on Thursday seemed quite evenly split on EU membership.

Brian and Georgina McCord from Hillsborough had recently retired from dairy farming. “We have not made our mind up yet [on Brexit],” Brian said. “One is saying one thing and one is saying the other.”

The big question is how subsidies will be impacted, he added.

Johnston McBride from Belfast said: “We should stay in because I don’t think the British government will support us if we leave.”

And Jonathan Marshall from Castlederg, a relief milker, also wants to stay in “because of the single farm payment”. He is not sure the UK could subsidise farmers given current milk, beef and lamb prices.

A Poyntzpass dairy farmer also wanted to stay in “because we weren’t told yet what we will get from the other ones”.

Likewise an anonymous Fermanagh dairy farmer also wanted to remain “because that is where the farmers are getting the money from”.

But William Connolly from Ballygowan wants out. “You think of the money we pay in – three times what we get back – and all the regulations you have to abide by, I would nearly say go out of it.”

Another dairyman from Coleraine said Brexit offered a better future. “The government is paying too much in and we are not receiving enough out,” he said. “The CAP reform system for the UK is not working.”

A Co Antrim dairy farmer agreed: “There is too much money going out of the UK and into the EU and we are not getting enough back.”

One Co Down dairy farmer said: “When we joined the EU milk was 15p and we have jumped through all the hoops this last 30 years and milk is still 15p. So they haven’t done a whole lot for dairy farming.

“It is dire at the moment, dairy farmers are working at a loss every day. They are having to go into other resources. Banks are being sympathetic but that is running out.”

He knows around a dozen dairy farmers who “had the sense” to get out, he said.