With the European Elections in the rear view mirror, Ulster Farmers’ Union President Ian Marshall has told Agriland that the political parties at Stormont must now focus their minds on getting an acceptable CAP Reform deal for Northern Ireland.

“And the clock is ticking,” he said. “We have kept in close touch with Farm Minister Michelle O’Neill over the past couple of weeks,” he said.

“I believe the Minister when she says that she is not playing for a default position with regard to CAP. But the reality is that we need to see serious negotiations getting under way immediately.

“The current vacuum helps no cause. The final decisions on the CAP reform process will be taken by the political parties at Stormont. And given that we are talking about a political process, I believe it is incumbent on Michelle O’Neill to take the lead on this matter.

“Personally, I was of the view that talks should have commenced prior to the elections taking place. This was not to be, so we are where we are.”

The Union President went on to point out that he and his team are ready to meet with Minister O’Neill at any time. “We are happy to take the initiative, if necessary. The key focus of themUnion’s activities at the present me is to get an acceptable CAP deal over the line. There is no other show in town,” he concluded.

The significance of the CAP support monies to agriculture was further highlighted this week courtesy of the Farm Incomes for Irish Farming in 2013, which were issued by the Department of Agriculture in Dublin. The figures confirm an average farm income of €30,000, generated on the back of direct payments from Brussels totalling almost €26,000. So the reality is that farmers in the Republic of Ireland last year made a profit of only €4,000 per holding last year, based solely on the basis of their commercial returns from the marketplace.