UFU looks to the future for a new domestic agricultural policy post-Brexit
THE Ulster Farmers' Union has launched a discussion document on Brexit and options for a new domestic agricultural policy, aimed at sparking debate in the rural community particularly about support structures post-Brexit.
It has argued that post-Brexit support for farmers must be at least equivalent to that provided by the EU and that Northern Ireland must retain its current share of this farm support.
UFU President Barclay Bell said that while the UK government has promised support for 2019, after that things are much less certain.
“The delivery system for future funding is likely to change and we have an ideal opportunity to design one that is better suited to UK agriculture and creates conditions for a more productive, sustainable and resilient agriculture sector,” he said.
The document suggests baseline measures that would be accessible to all, and modular measures, which could be applied for.
“The members of our policy committees have been ambitious and creative in their thinking and this discussion document shows what could be done with a healthy budget. Any new system must be kept simple and must be targeted at those who actively take the risks in primary food production,” Mr Bell added.
The UFU warned that failing to support farmers will have serious consequences for food security, the wider agri-food industry, the environment and rural areas.
Mr Bell said: “The UK is only 61 per cent self sufficient when it comes to food, and without support for farmers there is a real danger that this will continue to decline.
"Farming is important to the public. Shoppers trust locally produced food; they know what they are getting is safe, high quality, and affordable. They want to see a productive and resilient farming industry that also continues to look after the countryside.”
The Union says it now looks forward to debating the document with its members.
“This is a discussion document and we want it to generate debate. We will provide details soon of how farmers can get involved in this process and it is vital we hear people's thoughts and suggestions,” said Mr Bell.
“If ever there was a time for farmers to have their views heard it's now. This is our opportunity to shape the future of Northern Ireland agriculture.”