UFU welcomes government £3bn for UK farmers to replace EU’s CAP subsidies

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has welcomed government plans to give almost £3bn to the UK farming sector to make up for the loss of EU subsidies after Brexit.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 30th December 2019, 10:52 am
Ulster Farmers' Union president Ivor Ferguson. Picture: Cliff Donaldson
Ulster Farmers' Union president Ivor Ferguson. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

Chancellor Sajid Javid has said farmers can enter the new year with confidence that they will be able to “thrive” after Brexit as he confirmed just under £3 billion of funding for 2020.

Spread over two years, the cash will be used to support farmers when the UK leaves the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments scheme next year.

It will allow funding for direct payments for 2020 to continue at the same level as this year, and supplement the remaining EU funding that farmers will receive for development projects until 2023.

UFU president Ivor Ferguson said that with the UK set to leave the EU on January 31, the announcement delivers on commitments by the Conservatives in their election manifesto and is “welcome news”.

He added: “It gives farmers some much-needed certainty in relation to direct payments, which are crucial for many farm businesses and help ensure the production of the affordable, high-quality food consumers demand.

“Further to this commitment, it is essential Northern Ireland’s share of UK funding is maintained, and that we have the ability to regionalise agricultural policy.”

Mr Ferguson added: “Farming in Northern Ireland is very different to farming in the south of England and regionalisation will ensure that the delivery of this funding best suits the differing needs and structure of our industry here.”

Speaking of possible north–south differences, he said that as the Brexit process progresses, it is vital that NI’s competitiveness in the all-island economy is maintained.

“The level of support payments given to agriculture in the Republic of Ireland must be tracked and matched.

“The government must also deliver on its guarantees that NI will still have unfettered access to the GB market post-Brexit. Quick progress must also be made on one of the Conservative Party’s other key manifesto commitments – encouraging the public sector to buy local to support our farmers and reduce environmental costs.”

The UFU is seeking urgent clarity around the specifics of this announcement and will continue to press MPs and government officials for a longer-term funding commitment to farming, he added.

Former Stormont agriculture committee member, Robin Swann MLA, said that while this £3bn is welcome reassurance for farming for the next two years, a long term programme with certainty is still needed.

“The two-year funding pledge coincides with what the government had previously pledged in the last Parliament,” he said.

“What is needed now is the creation of support mechanisms that allow NI farmers to be able to produce food on a level playing field and continue to be the guardians of the environment.”

The sector is without political direction as to how these monies could be best utilised, he added.

Mr Javid said the money would see rural communities “freed” from EU subsidies.

“When we leave the EU and are freed from the Common Agricultural Policy, we will be able to support our vital rural communities – who are a cornerstone of life in the UK – with a fairer and less bureaucratic system,” he said.

“Farmers can enter the new year with confidence that they have our backing and will be able to thrive after Brexit.”

Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers added: “Outside the EU we will have a simpler, fairer funding system – one that rewards farmers for enhancing our environment and safeguarding our high animal welfare standards.

“We are committed to making sure our rural communities feel the benefits of Brexit and will ensure our farmers get a better deal.”

NFU Scotland’s president Andrew McCornick said: “With us set to leave the European Union and the Common Agricultural Policy on January 31, 2020, it is essential that the farming industry knows where it stands with regards direct payments.

“Farm businesses are dependent upon these payments and until we see a fairer redistribution of the share of the profit in the supply chain, direct payments will remain important for all farmers and crafters.

“Government commitment to continue to fund direct payments when we leave the EU is welcome.

“When we meet ministers and MPs in the new year, we will press for a long-term funding commitment for farming and measures that will help farmers secure a fairer share of returns from the supply chain.”