The recently formed Special Disadvantaged Area (SDA) Group in Northern Ireland has reiterated its policy that a single region and a short transition is the only sensible option for the North in the context of the ongoing CAP Reform consultation process.

“Why should we encourage growing production in the lowland with excessive amounts of single farm payments (SFP), at the expense of the SDA, especially in light of recent statements from the Ulster Farmers Union, which imply the lowland is unprofitable and therefore unsustainable unless it receives a higher rate of payment than elsewhere?” SDA group’s Peter Gallagher commented.

“Have we learnt nothing from other sectors of industry, which focused solely on production with no regard for profit or sustainability?”

He continued: “The marginal areas have been starved of its fair share of single farm payment for 10 years, and yet have remained productive. The SDA provides the heart of the beef industry of Northern Ireland and can truly grow in a sustainable, profitable, environmentally friendly manner which meets all the requirements of the clean green and naturally produced ‘Northern Ireland Beef’ brand.

“The allegedly ‘robust’ argument from the Union for a two tier and a 10-year transition has casually changed from supporting productive agriculture to preventing redistribution of wealth, neither of which fit the EC ethos, and the inconsistency of the arguments proves they are not even comfortable with their own reasoning for their proposals.

“The suggestion from the Union that the farmers of the SDA are unproductive is highly insulting and serves to show how detached the “so called” main farming organisations have become from the main primary producers.”

Gallagher then called on the North’s Farm Minister Michelle O’Neill to take on board the policies of the SDA Group.

He said: “Despite all the criticism, it is encouraging to witness the UFU President Harry Sinclair acknowledging that SDA Group has the “loudest voice”, and we would urge the minister not to ignore this voice as the president suggests, but embrace it and deliver fairness and equality.

“The focus should be on creating a CAP regime that supports productivity in all sectors and across all regions of Northern Ireland.”

Gallagher concluded: “We would encourage the minister to push ahead and ensure that a single region is delivered, at whatever cost, as it is in the best interests of Northern Ireland.”