UFU: Every £1 invested in agriculture delivers £7.40 to rural areas

Cheap food imports into the UK must not be allowed to become a consequence of Brexit, according to Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) President Barclay Bell.

“Such arrangements would totally undermine the farming and food sectors,” he said.

There must be full equivalence of standards, where food imports are concerned.

Bell was speaking at this week’s Brexit conference, hosted by the IFA (Irish Farmers Association).

He confirmed that all the UK farming unions would do everything possible to ascertain the position of the UK government with regard to future farm support and agri-food trade arrangements, in the run-up to the June 8 general election.

“A green paper has been promised by Whitehall on both these matters. But whether or not this materialises before the election is now very debatable.”

Bell said that many farmers in Northern Ireland had voted to leave the EU in last year’s membership referendum.

“In a lot of cases, this was a knee-jerk reaction to poor farm-gate prices during the previous years and ever-tightening regulations.

Prior to the referendum, the UFU took the position that, in the absence of any clear argument to leave the EU, then the United Kingdom should remain in Europe. But we fully recognised, from the outset, that the UK’s membership of the EU would always be a contentious issue among rank and file union members.

He admitted that his organisation now faces an uphill struggle to secure UK government recognition of the value which farming and food delivers to rural economies.

“Front and centre within this debate will be the retention of the current direct payment regime for farmers.

“The figures clearly confirm that every £1 invested in agriculture delivers £7.40 to rural towns and villages.

“The UFU wants to ensure the maintenance of a sustainable farming sector in Northern Ireland post-Brexit. And this core message must be communicated to the UK government in the strongest possible terms.”