The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has said that while the final positions on regionalisation and transition decided by the NI Executive today are not exactly what the Union was hoping for, farmers will be relieved that an agreement has finally been reached.

Today, Northern Ireland Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill announced agreement on CAP reform, the new Rural Development Programme and the agri-food strategy report ‘Going for Growth’.

Following a conversation with NI Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill, UFU president Ian Marshall said: “This hasn’t been an easy or smooth process for anyone involved and farmers across Northern Ireland have been seriously worried over the past few months that we would be facing a default position come 1st August. The fall-out would have been a complete disaster for the industry and undoubtedly it would have put many farm businesses at risk. The Agriculture Minister has been true to her word that she would not let it go to a default position and our politicians have done their bit to show their support for the future of farming in Northern Ireland.

“Farmers at least now know where they stand and while it isn’t exactly what the Union was hoping for we need to look at the positives. A seven-year transition means that Northern Ireland has the longest transition period of all the UK regions and it gives farmers some time to adapt their businesses.”

The Minister expressed her satisfaction that the Executive has reached agreement on the remaining CAP implementation (Direct Payments and Rural Development) issues. “I’m very pleased that the Executive has reached a resolution on this very important issue. There were diverse views on some of the remaining CAP implementation issues. Compromise was needed and we have succeeded in finding a fair and balanced solution which represents a good outcome for farmers’ right across the north. We were all well aware that if decisions on these issues are not notified to the EU Commission by 1 August 2014, then the default position would be imposed on us by Brussels. This was a situation I was determined to avoid, especially when I fought so hard to secure the right to make decisions locally.”