UFU meet EU Commission officials on land availability issues

Thursday, 5 March, 2015

Ulster Farmers’ Union Deputy President Ivor Ferguson has led a delegation, which included UFU Potato Policy Committee Chair Adrian Jamison and UFU Vegetable Policy Committee Chair Roy Lyttle, to Brussels to meet with Mr Pierre Bascou, Director of the EU Commission’s Directorate of Direct Support to discuss the land availability issues that are currently facing many of Northern Ireland’s farmers, in particular many potato and vegetable growers. The meeting was organised by MEPs Jim Nicholson and Diane Dodds following an urgent meeting called by the UFU in late February.

UFU Deputy President Ivor Ferguson said: “It was a very constructive meeting and it was very useful to be able to meet with senior EU Commission officials to highlight the serious land availability difficulties currently facing potato and vegetable growers here in Northern Ireland. We discussed various options that might help ease the situation here and the Commission has said it is prepared to participate in further discussions with the UFU and DARD in an effort to find a satisfactory resolution to the problem.

“For some time now we have been aware of the difficulties many farmers are having in securing land for 2015, in particular vegetable and potato growers, and we have been working to see something put in place to help those farmers affected. The requirements around active farmer under the new CAP and the establishment of new entitlements in 2015 are largely the reason behind the land availability issues and potato and vegetable farmers are particularly vulnerable to land shortages as they need fresh ground annually, relying mostly on neighbours and landowners for ‘clean’ parcels of land in order to grow crops.

“On a practical level, there is an urgency to see this issue resolved quickly as growers will want to get crops planted in the next few weeks but also the deadline for direct support applications is fast approaching and this is at the forefront of people’s minds as well. Hopefully with the assistance of the EU Commission a solution can be found that will help our potato and vegetable growers’ access the much needed ‘clean’ land for 2015.”