Sheep recommendations must be adopted

Tuesday, 25 October, 2016

Ulster Farmers’ Union beef and lamb chairman, Crosby Cleland, has said the recommendations from the EU 'sheep reflection group' must be supported by both the European Commission and UK government to improve the long term viability of sheep production.

Mr Cleland said the group's thinking could have a positive impact, and that despite Brexit a lot can still be done to improve the viability of the industry. “The UK government needs to ensure these recommendations are endorsed.  They also set the standard for policies sheep farmers will want to see included in future UK agricultural policy,” said Mr Cleland.

Mr Cleland said tight margins and volatility have left direct support and agri-environment payments crucial to farm incomes. “These have also delivered value for money for consumers, by providing quality lamb from livestock that play an important role in the environment,” he said.  “This links in well with the reflection group’s recommendation of a fund to promote the value of sheep meat and emphasise the positive role sheep play in our environment,” he said.

Mr Cleland said he is pleased the group underlined the importance of continuing to seek new markets, while recognising the threat from southern hemisphere imports. “It is crucial that equivalence of standards of animal health, consumer protection and the environment remain part of EU trade policy.  We would also expect the UK government to adopt this position after Brexit,” he said.

Mr Cleland stressed that relaxing the cross compliance burden and improving market transparency are also priorities. “Brussels regulations encouraged many farmers to vote to leave the EU.  It is now up to the UK government to work with farmers to simplify this burden.” He also called for better market transparency through price reporting, linked to an EU sheep meat market observatory to give farmers a better understanding of what is happening along the supply chain.