UFU responds to CAP criticism

Following comments by Martina Anderson MEP the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has responded to the assertion that the UFU’s two region policy does not represent the best option for all farmers.

UFU President Harry Sinclair said: “First of all by representing the UFU’s position as solely a two-region model, completely misses the key point of our proposal, which calls for a two-region model with additional support for all severely disadvantage areas (SDA) cattle producers and particularly for vulnerable suckler cattle farms in the SDA area.

“A position which, should the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development deliver on, would mean an additional €5.8m per annum for those cattle producers, over and above what would be delivered under the single region model supported by Anderson.” He added that under the UFU proposal SDA sheep producers would still gain by around 50 per cent or approximately €7m per year.

“However the area where there appears to be the most misunderstanding and misrepresentation is around the different productivity on farms,” he stressed.

“The supporters of a single model seem to think that all land is equal in quality and, therefore, equal in productive capacity. Anyone who knows anything about farming knows that is patently not the case. Also the single model proponents argue that some farmers have been historically disadvantaged by having lower levels of support payment. Well again anyone who knows anything about farming will know that these differences at a farm level are much more about farming systems, farming sectors, and even individual farming decisions, so it is a fallacy to argue that farming families and what they currently produce from those farms is very radically different from the activity, which they carried out 10 or even 20 years ago.”

According to Sinclair, the perverse outcome from a single region model will be that those farms which have invested and improved their businesses, will be the very farms that will have single farm payment support reduced and diverted to large, more extensive farms, many of whom are found in the SDA region.

“Anderson makes a sweeping statement that a single region model would be more equitable and support all farmers, but she is conveniently abandoning over 6,000 farmers in the disadvantaged areas who will be losing an additional €6.36m per annum in SFP and a further €4.1m per annum of less favoured areas support.”

He continued: “If DARD’s proposals for a single region model and ANC support are accepted that will equate to an average additional loss of €1.7k per farm per year.

“So while I’m sure it’s true that Anderson has met hundreds of farmers who desire a single region, it’s not surprising that those who stand to gain the most from a single region model will argue strongly for it. It’s equally true that if she met with whatever number of farmers in the DA and lowlands who will lose significant part of their SFP support, she will get the opposite answer. And while some may have come late to this debate the UFU has been analysing, in-depth, the impact on all farms and farming sectors, and we have fully considered how the various proposals are likely to change the face of farming and the productive capacity of our industry going forward.”