The North’s Farm Minister Michelle O’Neill has told newly-elected UFU President Ian Marshall that she will host discussions with the Union on the entire CAP review process over the coming weeks.

“We have made it clear to the Minister that these meetings must constitute negotiations on how best to settle all the outstanding CAP issues for the good of farming as a whole in Northern Ireland,” Mr Marshall explained. “What’s more these discussions must be held without delay. We see no reason why the upcoming elections should get in the way of these important meetings taking place.

“I made it quite clear to the Minister that there is now an opportunity to put the rancour of recent months to one side and for all involved in the CAP debate to move these important matters forward in an open and constructive manner. The Minister has told me that she wants to secure a negotiated settlement regarding the CAP reform process. And I believe her when she says this. The last thing that our industry needs is for this matter to drift on until the beginning of August and the default scenario of an immediate flat rate Pillar 1 payment system kicking in on January 1 next.”

When asked if the Union is prepared to compromise regarding its current CAP priorities, Ian Marshall said: “We remain totally committed to securing a CAP deal that will deliver a realistic funding stream to those farms with the strongest commitment to food production in Northern Ireland.  We realise that we are moving to a flat rate system of some sort under the new Pillar 1 arrangements. However, it is critical that the transition period regarding the introduction of the new measures is made as long as possible. And, as far as the Union is concerned, this must be ten years.

“At the end of the day, a political decision will be required to sort out the CAP Reform issue. And, on that basis, it is incumbent on the Farm Minister to put a compromise on the able. We all know our respective positions at this stage. However, it would be an act of good faith on the part of Michelle O’Neill to show a willingness to be flexible. For its part, the Union will not be found lacking in its response, so as to secure a final deal that is fair and equitable.”