UFU Policy Director Wesley Aston has confirmed that industry support is growing for the Union’s CAP reform proposals, centred on the division of Northern Ireland into two regions, rather than one, for the purposes of future Pillar 1 payments.

“Fundamentally we want the support monies to go to those farmers who are actively producing food,” he added.

“And it is significant that this week has seen the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association, the Grain Trade Association, Dairy UK and the Northern Ireland Food and Drunk Association supporting our views on this crucially important matter. “

Wesley Aston continued:“Our policy does not discriminate against livestock farmers in the SDA: in fact the opposite is the case.

“What our policy does seek to address is the problems that will be caused on individual lowland and DA farms that will take a very severe hit if a single region model is implemented. At the same time we are being totally fair and proportionate to other farmers throughout Northern Ireland.

“Many lowland dairy and beef producers are already facing the prospect of having to accept cuts in Pillar 1 support that are well in excess of 20%. Our policy is striving to ensure that the CAP model introduced for 2015 minimises the further reduction in support payments which these highly productive farms will have to endure.”

Wesley Aston rejected the view that introducing a two region CAP model will not work, purely from an administration perspective.

“This just doesn’t stack up at all he said, given that Wales has already agreed a policy moving forward based on a three region approach. And I come back to the point again that our policies have been developed to treat every farmer in Northern Ireland on a fair and equitable basis.”

The UFU policy director acknowledged that Northern Ireland’s Farm Minster Michelle O’Neill has until the beginning of August to make Brussels aware of the detailed CAP arrangements that will be implemented in Northern Ireland beyond 2015. He is also conscious that the Minister and her Stormont Executive colleagues have yet to respond to the Going for Growth Strategy document, published by the Agri-Food Strategy Board almost a year ago.

He concluded:

“We feel strongly that Michelle O’Neill and, if required, the rest of the Executive, should make the ‘right’ decisions on these issues now!”