Ulster Farmers’ Union President Harry Sinclair has called on Northern Ireland’s politicians and administrators to ‘look to the future and not the past’ when it comes to implementing the reformed Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) and that the wrong decision will leave Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry ‘languishing in the wake’ of its future-thinking neighbours. The UFU President made the comments in his speech to guests at the UFU’s annual dinner held in Belfast on Friday night (28 March).

UFU President Harry Sinclair said; “Usually the UFU annual dinner is more of a social affair but I felt there was a need to somewhat break with tradition to cover some points which are crucial to our farm businesses and the agricultural industry in Northern Ireland going forward. As my Presidential term comes to an end, I wanted to leave our politicians, administrators and indeed the agriculture industry as a whole with a very clear message.

“The Union has presented a very clear, logical and robust proposal for implementing the reformed CAP. It is a proposal based on key principles such as minimising redistribution so as to ensure the sustainability of all farm businesses and a long transition period to allow farmers to time to plan their businesses as they move to a flatter rate payment. It is a proposal which we, as grass root farmers, covering all sectors and from all areas of Northern Ireland believe is best for the agricultural industry as a whole.

“So my challenge to our politicians and administrators is to look to the future not the past. Send a clear message that you are really genuine about growing the economy in Northern Ireland, and that you believe that agri-food is critical to that growth. That is why you need to ensure that targeted support is available for the most vulnerable sectors and that all farm businesses are given time to adapt to a future where support is reducing in overall terms. You need to send out a clear message that NI agri-food will be supported to grow and develop and compete in the new and emerging markets, and not be left languishing in the wake of our neighbours who are already forging ahead with their own expansion and growth agendas.

“This Union has provided a template to achieve these things, and it will be our members who will deliver the raw materials which will be the backbone for growth in exports and jobs in the processing sector. The future of our important industry is in your hands. As politicians and administrators you may move on to greater and better things, but it is the farming families on the ground that will have to live with the legacy you leave behind.”