Minister must act to support beef sector

Ulster Farmers’ Union Deputy President Barclay Bell has told Agriland that Northern Ireland’s Farm Minister Michelle O’Neill must act to support the beef industry.

He added:“We believe there is sufficient scope within the new Rural Development Programme to allow the Minister introduce an additional headage payment for suckler cows, which could be targeted towards those producers in the current Disadvantaged Areas.

“We recognise that such a step cannot be construed as a means of increasing beef production in Northern Ireland. However, there is nothing to stop the Minister from introducing a scheme which is specifically designed to improve efficiency within the suckler cow sector.”

Barclay Bell went on to point out that the Union intends meeting Michelle O’Neill on this issue as a matter of priority.

He continued:“The entire beef industry is facing a number of considerable challenges at the present time. And it is incumbent on all relevant stakeholder groups to work together in order to find the solutions that are required. Part of this work will entail a thorough investigation of producers’ cost base and finding ways of improving efficiency levels within the sector.”

Reflecting on the detail of the CAP agreement for Northern Ireland, which was announced by Michelle O’Neill recently, the Union’s Deputy President said that a fair compromise had been reached.

“The seven year transition period will give most farm businesses sufficient time to adapt to the changing support measures,” he confirmed.

“The fact that the funding for the Going for Growth strategy, published by the Agri-Food Strategy Board over a year ago, has also been confirmed by Minister O’Neill is further good news for the farming and food sectors.”

Commenting on the specifics of the Farm Competitiveness Fund, which will be included in the new Rural Development Programme, Barclay Bell said that the £260 million available would be used to fund both land improvement and farm buildings projects.

“My understanding at this stage is that farmers seeking the funds will be expected to complete a farm business plan,” he concluded.”