Commenting on developments in Brussels this week Ulster Unionist Agriculture spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson MLA has said:
“This has been an important week for Northern Ireland agriculture with political agreement being reached in negotiations relating to the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the EU’s long term budget. The Commission’s original CAP proposals contained elements which were of serious concern to Northern Ireland’s farmers - not least the greening of direct payments and the move to a flat rate payment system.
“The package agreed this week represents an improvement in some areas when compared to the Commission’s original proposals. My Ulster Unionist colleague Jim Nicholson MEP has worked throughout this process to simplify the Commission’s greening proposals to make them more workable for our farmers on the ground and to ensure that there is much needed flexibility for regions to implement the reforms in a way which suits local needs, priorities and conditions.
“There are however a range of challenges for our farmers within the package and we must ensure that these are addressed wherever possible during implementation. It is therefore absolutely vital that Minister O’Neill and her Department consult with the industry and use the flexibility in a way which best suits the interests of Northern Ireland agriculture.
“Given recent statements from the Scottish Government the Minister must also defend the interests of Northern Ireland agriculture when it comes to the division of the UK’s allocation of funds. Something which I pointed out last week she had resolutely failed to do. The calls for Scotland to receive a greater share of the UK’s envelope are totally unjustified.”
Jo-Anne concluded: “While political agreement has now been reached after months of negotiations in Europe there is still a lot to do before the reformed CAP is implemented. The Minister must not be found wanting as the prosperity of Northern Ireland’s agricultural industry, rural communities and wider economy depends on how this package is eventually implemented on the ground.”