UFU comment on UK Agriculture Bill
Friday, 14 September, 2018
The Ulster Farmers’ Union says the publication of the UK Agriculture Bill is a significant step in the UK’s Brexit process and is crucial in determining the industry’s future post-Brexit. UFU president, Ivor Ferguson, said the UFU would be examining the document closely, in particular what impact it may have on farming in Northern Ireland.
The UFU president was in Westminster this week, along with the other UK farming union leaders, and met with Secretary of State Michael Gove, MPs and representatives from the House of Lords to discuss the UK’s Brexit plans.
Mr Ferguson said the meetings were constructive and the message from farmers was clear – supporting sustainable and profitable food production must underpin the UK’s future agriculture policy. “The UK cannot afford to be complacent when it comes to food security. We are world leading in our food production standards, both in terms of animal health and welfare and the environment. Farmers across the UK strive daily to produce the high quality, safe, delicious, and affordable food consumers expect to see on supermarket shelves. The UK must continue to ensure farmers are supported in a way to allow this to continue.”
The UFU has always argued for regional flexibility when it came to designing a new domestic agriculture policy. Mr Ferguson said, “In our initial review of the Bill, we are pleased to see provisions in place that take into consideration the current political situation in Northern Ireland. In particular, it allows for a continued legal basis to ensure, as far as possible, that the status quo in terms of agricultural support can be continued until a new policy direction can be established.
“It is good news, despite the absence of Stormont, that the Agriculture Bill recognises our needs are different from the other regions. It sets out that it will not pre-judge or constrain the ability of an incoming Minister, NI Executive and Assembly to decide what is appropriate for the NI agri-food sector. However, we accept there will be some overarching UK frameworks to ensure common standards and prevent unfair competition.”
Mr Ferguson said the publication of the Bill further reinforces the importance of having a devolved government. “We are keen to progress things further and are currently consulting with members to get their views on DAERA’s proposals for Northern Ireland’s future agriculture policy framework. However, we will likely need Stormont up and running before any real decisions can be taken. It is a difficult position for farmers and their businesses, as we need adequate time to plan for changes.
“Ultimately, the future format of support for the agricultural industry will be dependent on the outcome of any future trade deals with the EU or other countries. If good deals are secured, farmers may not need more support than they receive at present. However, if trade deals are agreed that undermine the industry, farmers will need much more to keep their businesses viable.”