‘Fast movement to flatter rate payment system may undermine production’

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) today met with the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Agriculture Committee to discuss in more detail the union’s position on the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (DARD) consultation on CAP Direct Support Implementation.  

In a statement UFU President Harry Sinclair said: “Our response to DARD’s consultation on how the new Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) should be implemented in Northern Ireland has been based on how best to support productive agriculture and that was the focal point at today’s meeting. It was clear from the level of interest and questioning that members of the agriculture committee fully understood the vital role, which the CAP plays in both farming and the wider Northern Ireland economy. The CAP supports farmers to produce affordable food, look after the countryside, create jobs, and maintain rural communities, which is why it’s so important we get the implementation right.

“We reiterated to members of the NI Assembly’s Agriculture Committee that the movement to a flatter rate payment system too quickly and to a single region has the potential to incur irreversible consequences that will undermine Northern Ireland’s productive capacity and curtail the growth and development of our agri-food industry.

“We confirmed our support for the DARD’s proposal to move entitlement values towards regional averages for the first five years (by 10 per cent of the difference each year) which, will allow for a smoother less redistributive transition enabling farmers more time to plan ahead. However, the UFU does not support a move to a single region model as it will create many significant losers in both disadvantage areas and lowland areas and won’t support productive agriculture.”

Sinclair continued: “The UFU has always recognised the impact that the redistribution of support would have on cattle producers, both beef and dairy, particularly in the existing SDA region, and we outlined how the introduction of additional targeted support would be a lower cost method of fully compensating these SDA cattle producers for this specific negative SFP redistributive effect. In addition, we raised the damaging impact which a rushed and unsatisfactory conclusion to the on-going debate on the changes from the current LFA areas to the new ANC designation could bring to many farmers in those areas.”

The UFU president concluded: “We stressed to committee members the need for a timely conclusion to this debate but warned that if DARD opts for a single region model, support will be diverted away from productive to more extensive agriculture and they will be sending the message that they are not really serious about supporting the ‘Growing for Growth’ strategy.”

The UFU now hopes to meet with Northern Ireland’s Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill as soon as possible to discuss the logic behind its position on CAP direct support implementation.