Mr Ford was speaking in support of an Assembly debate, which called on the Agriculture Minister to develop a strategy to support the agriculture and agri-food sectors following Brexit.
David Ford said: “At the moment, around £350 million comes from the EU to farmers in Northern Ireland through the Common Agricultural Policy, representing 87% of annual farm income. This level of funding equates to around 10% of the overall EU agriculture funding for the UK. Post Brexit, the UK government is unlikely to maintain this level of support across the UK and especially in Northern Ireland. This will have serious impacts for the industry here.
“The agriculture and agri-food sector directly employs an estimated 71,500 people. Any reduction in financial support will initially impact on this level of employment, but there will also be serious implications on the many hundreds of jobs supporting the industry, such as in equipment supply.
“Food processing has become an important cross-border industry, and it is essential any Brexit settlement meets the needs of this sector, which supports thousands of jobs on both sides of the border. Agri-food is integrated across the island, with livestock and produce moving in both directions. A hard border will pose major problems,” Mr Ford added.
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“As we approach the triggering of Article 50, it is time the Executive took the lead in developing an agreed strategy to protect the interests of Northern Ireland’s agriculture sector.”