UFU highlights significant differences with DARD Minister on CAP implementation

Wednesday, 5 March, 2014

Following a meeting with DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill yesterday (4 March) to outline the Ulster Farmers’ Union position on the implementation of the reformed CAP, UFU President Harry Sinclair has said that while there were many areas of agreement there were still significant differences between the DARD Minister’s views of how CAP reform should be implemented and the position held by the Union.

Harry Sinclair continued; “Minister O’Neill assured us that no decision in respect of how CAP reform will be implemented in Northern Ireland has been taken so far. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the Minister holds some views, some of which she admitted are personal, on several of the significant issues that are very much at odds with what the Union believes is necessary for the success and sustainability of the NI agriculture industry going forward.

“On transition, and despite a previous DARD submission to the EU Commission arguing for a 10 year transition period on the basis that a shorter transition would be ‘much too abrupt given the scale of support redistribution that will occur’,  it now appears that the Minister believes a shorter transition period is preferable. When it comes to regionalisation the Minister appears to be focused on addressing what she perceives as ‘historical imbalances’ rather than looking to the future and providing a support based incentive for farmers across all sectors and in all regions of Northern Ireland to meet the challenges of increasing productivity.  This would be in line with the economic expansion aspirations of the NI Executive by maintaining support where it was generated and currently resides. Indeed we were genuinely surprised that neither the Minister nor her officials could see the contradiction in the fact that under the single region model, DARD’s own hill farm at Glenwherry will receive an increase in Single Farm Payment support of between two and three times without any meaningful change in the output or production from the farm.”

Harry added; “On ANC support we were more encouraged by the Minister’s view. It now appears that she accepts the considerable financial and operational disadvantages that bringing future ANC support into Pillar 1 would mean to many vulnerable farms in both the SDA and DA regions, and is now more disposed towards continuing the future ANC Scheme in Pillar 2.” 

The UFU President concluded; “Although we were assured that no decisions have yet been taken, we are concerned that the Minister is being unduly influenced by a number of recently formed vociferous single interest groups. The members of these groups have the most to gain from a single region and a quick transition but it will be at the expense of the vast majority of Northern Ireland’s farmers, particularly those in the DA region who will lose both a large part of their SFP and also their ANC support going forward. We don’t believe these important decisions should be based on who can shout the loudest but should be based on what is in the best interest for Northern Ireland agriculture as a whole. The Union will continue to promote an implementation approach which will build on the significant gains that have already been secured from the original EC proposals. The focus should be on creating a regime that supports productivity in all sectors and across all regions of NI and we believe strongly that this is the best way to secure the future prosperity of Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry.”