Budget ‘encouraging’ but longer term decisions are needed
Ulster Farmers’ Union president Barclay Bell has said the recently announced 2018-19 budget allocation for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is “encouraging”.
However he warned the industry should still be wary about what happens post-2019.
‘A serious impact’
“When the budget outlook was published at the end of last year, we highlighted our concerns regarding the proposed cuts,” he said.
“If these cuts had been implemented, it would have had a serious impact on a number of very significant issues such as our ability to tackle bovine TB and the delivery of environmental programmes.
“It would have also severely undermined the thinking of the ‘Going for Growth’ strategy, that farming efficiency and productivity drive a successful food industry and potentially create more jobs.”
The UFU president added: “We are encouraged that, in this budget allocation, there has been a reasonably good settlement for DAERA.
“This will allow the department to continue with its current activities, particularly delivering critical frontline services such as the process for making much-needed support payments to farmers.
“This is significant, given that the agri-food industry faces unique challenges in the short and long term because of the uncertainties surrounding Brexit.”
In a report responding to the original budget options, DAERA stated that it would be one of the departments most affected by the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
Civil servants warned that it would have to make staff redundant and cut back on key programmes if the full extent of the budget cuts were implemented.
The report stated that, under the £194 million (€218 million) currently secured, cuts may still be necessary.
“Going forward DAERA must continue to be funded at a level that allows it to deliver key services for farmers and to prepare for Brexit,” Bell said.
The 2018-19 budget is a stop gap. The real concern is what happens post-2019.
“Not knowing what the budget will be for 2019 creates a significant amount of uncertainty for farmers in the year ahead. We want to see longer-term budget plans in order to ensure DAERA can support this important industry effectively.”