The North’s Agriculture Committee Chairman Paul Frew has told AgriLand that Farm Minister Michelle O’Neill must come out with her detailed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Reform proposals as a matter of priority.

“These must then be discussed and agreed by the Executive, so as to secure the best deal for production agriculture moving forward,” he added.

“As part of this process the Agriculture Minister must also make her Executive colleagues of the additional money that will be required to meet the needs of the farming and food sectors moving forward. I am mindful of the fact that the Going for Growth report from the Agri Food Strategy Board.

“As a party, the DUP is committed to ensuring that productive farmers receive the bulk of the monies that will be made through the Pillar 1 funding mechanism. And yes there will be winners and losers in the new CAP deal. TGs being the case, farmers will need the longest lead in time possible, to acclimatise to the new arrangements.”

Frew was commenting in the wake of a presentation made by a delegation from the Ulster Farmers Union to Agriculture Committee members at Stormont yesterday.

Referring to the issue of Michelle O’Neill being taken through the courts at the end of December last year by Stormont Finance Minister Simon Hamilton, on the issue of her proposing to take single farm payment monies in order to help fund the next rural development programme, said: “This decision was not taken lightly. But at the end of the day the principle of not using what is farmers’ money to help fund rural development projects had to be defended. The Single Farm Payment , or Pillar 1 budget must be maintained to support production agriculture.

“The DUP is not anti-rural development. In fact, the very opposite is the case. However, we do not believe that farmers money should be used to fund these measures.”

Frew concluded: “I firmly believe that the support monies on offer from Europe must be targeted at those farmers who have the scale to expand food output.”