With the European Elections now over our returning MEP representatives to Brussels and Strasbourg have been outlining their priorities for agriculture during the period ahead.

The DUP’s MEP Diane Dodds is making it very clear that depending on the outcome of the next general election at Westminster, a great deal of her next term will be spent examining the relationship between the UK and the rest of the European Union and whether or not the UK should leave the EU.

“Before any future referendum is taken regarding our future in the EU, I will be looking to see what deal farmers are likely to receive from either staying in the EU or leaving the EU. It is vital that farmers know what is on the table for Agriculture before such a decision would be taken. I believe, like all other regions of the Western World, that agriculture must be supported in order to provide affordable food for its people.

The MEP said that other priorities in the meantime will be getting the Parliament and Commission to think outside the EU for export markets for agriculture produce. “I want to see support given to the agri –food sector in a time of predicted growth and not on the back foot in competition with other markets. The potential for a trade deal between the EU and the Mercosur Bloc is something we must resist at the highest level, it demonstrates the shift of emphasis we need within the Commission. The removal of milk quotas post 2015 and the instability across all markets must also be addressed, with safety net mechanisms put in place to prevent a collapse in prices.”

The Ulster Unionist Party’s MEP Jim Nicholson has told Agriland that the implementation of the reformed CAP, the abolition of milk quotas plus potential trade agreements being negotiated between the EU and other economies are just some of the challenges facing agriculture in the next term of the European Parliament.

“Looking ahead to the next five year term of the European Parliament there are a wide range of issues which will have an impact on agri-food and it is my intention to continue to represent the interests and needs of the local industry on both the Agriculture Committee and Environment Committee.

The MEP said that the biggest challenge which will firmly be on the agenda over the next five-year term will be the continuation of trade negotiations between the EU and other trading partners such as the Mercosur bloc of South American countries and of course the US. “Other EU Member States have been very vocal when it comes to defending a number of other industries such as their indigenous car manufacturers or entertainment sectors. In recent weeks we have seen that the Commission is very keen to press ahead with the talks I intend to use my role as the Agriculture Committee’s representative in the process to defend the interests local producers. Given the importance of agri-food to our economy and rural communities the industry must not be sacrificed in a clamour to sign off high-profile trade negotiations.”

The MEP continued:  “These are just some of the major issues facing MEPs as we return to Brussels. Cutting red-tape, ensuring that any decisions taken are based on robust science, improving the level and impact of research and collaboration, fighting for fair play for producers, combatting criminality in the food supply chain and promoting Northern Ireland’s world class produce are other key areas where I want to see progress in the years ahead.”

A key priority for Sinn Féin’s MEP Martina Anderson will be the implementation of the final important issues arising from EU CAP reform.

The MEP told Agriland: “I remain of the view that a single region and a fairer distribution of CAP subsidies which be implemented sooner rather later is the best model for all of our farmers. I also want to work with our Minister to ensure that there is additional support for our beef farmers to address the particular issues that they face.

“Secondly I want to see progress in the legislation in the new EU Animal Health law which needs to allow or the free movement of animals through-out the island of Ireland and the addressing of issue of so-called ‘nomad’ cattle. This issue will also be assisted by the achievement of official EU recognition of brucellosis-free status for the north next year.

“Thirdly I want to see Irish beef, north and south, receiving formal PGI status in Europe which will increase the marketability of Irish beef worldwide. I will pursue these and many other issues on behalf of our famers and rural communities in the years ahead.”