Ritchie leads delegation to meet Defra ministers

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie with George Eustice and organisation representatives who attended the meeting in London

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie with George Eustice and organisation representatives who attended the meeting in London

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SDLP MP for South Down, Margaret Ritchie, has led a delegation of farming representatives from Farmers for Action and Family Farmers during a meeting with the DEFRA Secretary of State, Andrea Leadsom regarding the future of agriculture post-Brexit.

DEFRA Minister George Eustice and NIO Minister Lord Dunlop were also in attendance. Other representatives who attended the meeting included senior individuals from the Irish Sheep and Beef Association and Irish Milk Suppliers Association.

Ms Ritchie said she was glad to be able to use her position in Westminster to set up a meeting between farming representatives and the Secretary of State for DEFRA, Andrea Leadsom.

“I know only too well the deep concerns farmers have as we face the uncertainty of exit from the European Union: uncertainty for subsidies, regulation and exports. The meeting with DEFRA and NIO Ministers was an invaluable opportunity to express these concerns, and put forth the solutions we are calling for.

“As the MP for South Down, I believe it is my responsibility to ensure the voice of farmers – particularly small farmers – is not drowned out in the noise and clamour of the Brexit debate. That is why I will continue to facilitate these direct meetings with Whitehall Ministers going forward.

“I was also particularly glad that I was able to facilitate direct representations from dairy farmers who rely on the cross-border agricultural supply chain in Ireland. With Irish agriculture so uniquely inter-connected across the border, it is imperative that British ministers are made to understand the particular demands of our local sector post-Brexit.”

Fairness for Farmers in Europe (FFE) co-ordinator William Taylor paid tribute to Ms Ritchie for arranging the meeting.

Issues discussed included Brexit and its consequences for subsidies, the border between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, EU farm gate prices, and free trade deals on food.