UFU responds to MEP comments

Wednesday, 12 March, 2014

Following comments by Martina Anderson MEP the Ulster Farmers’ Union has responded to her assertion that the Union’s two region policy does not represent the best option for all farmers. 

UFU President Harry Sinclair said; “First of all by representing the Union’s position as solely a two region model, completely misses the key point of our proposal which calls for a two region model with additional support for all SDA cattle producers and particularly for vulnerable suckler cattle farms in the SDA area. A position which, should DARD deliver on, would mean an additional €5.8million per annum for those cattle producers, over and above what would be delivered under the single region model supported by Martina Anderson. Also, under the UFU proposal SDA sheep producers would still gain by around 50% or approximately €7million per year.

“However the area where there appears to be the most misunderstanding and misrepresentation is around the different productivity on farms. The supporters of a single model seem to think that all land is equal in quality and therefore equal in productive capacity. Anyone who knows anything about farming knows that is patently not the case. Also the single model proponents argue that some farmers have been historically disadvantaged by having lower levels of support payment. Well again anyone who knows anything about farming will know that these differences at a farm level are much more about farming systems, farming sectors, and even individual farming decisions, so it is a fallacy to argue that farming families and what they currently produce from those farms is very radically different from the activity which they carried out 10 or even 20 years ago.  The perverse outcome from a single region model will be that those farms which have invested and improved their businesses, will be the very farms which will have SFP support reduced and diverted to large, more extensive farms, many of which are found in the SDA region.

“Martina Anderson makes a sweeping statement that a single region model would be more equitable and support all farmers, but she is conveniently abandoning over 6000 farmers in the DA area who will be losing an additional €6.36m per annum in SFP and a further €4.1m per annum of LFA support. If DARD’s proposals for a single region model and ANC support are accepted that will equate to an average additional loss of €1.7K per farm per year.

“So while I’m sure it’s true that Martina Anderson has met hundreds of farmers who desire a single region, it’s not surprising that those who stand to gain the most from a single region model will argue strongly for it.  It’s equally true that if she met with whatever number of farmers in the DA and lowlands who will lose significant part of their SFP support, she will get the opposite answer. And while some may have come late to this debate the Ulster Farmers’ Union has been analysing, in-depth, the impact on all farms and farming sectors, and we have fully considered how the various proposals are likely to change the face of farming and the productive capacity of our industry going forward. Indeed the Union has already secured many critical wins on NI’s share of the UK budget, active farmers, and greening to name a few. The Union’s proposals are robust, they will support the whole industry going forward and should DARD discount them on the basis of expedience or political pressure, it will be all farmers who will be the losers in the long term.”