The Ulster Unionist Party has said that whilst clarity on the future of CAP implementation is welcome, Parties in the Executive should never have played politics with agriculture in the first place.
Commenting Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson said: “This clarity is long overdue; the threat of default has been hanging over farmers and the wider agri-food industry for months so clarity on the main aspects of the package will at least now allow farmers to know what the future holds.
“The politicised nature of the debate over recent months has been divisive and caused additional uncertainty. It stemmed largely from how the DUP and Sinn Fein dealt with the transfer of funds at Christmas.
“The months of public grandstanding have actually resulted in a CAP package which has a transition period less than what was originally proposed by DARD. It is worth remembering that DARD previously said that anything less than 10 years would be ‘much too abrupt given the scale of support redistribution that will occur’.
“Having an ANC scheme in Pillar II and maintaining the current LFA boundaries will be welcomed by many, I have long said that this exercise should be separate from CAP reform given its complexity and importance. This decision was largely inevitable given the timeframe available to designate the ANC boundaries, it must be done by 2018 plus the practical realities of the exercise - the industry and DARD have enough to contend with at present as a result of the new system of Single Farm Payments.”
Ulster Unionist Party Agriculture Spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson MLA responded to the announcement by adding;
“Whilst I welcome the fact there has at last there been some agreement and we are no longer facing the prospect of a default, the situation should never have been allowed to deteriorate to that level in the first place.
“I note that whilst the Minister has also claimed to have secured a budget of £623m for the next Rural Development Programme, much of this money still remains aspirational. The only money which the DUP and Sinn Fein have agreed to make available is DARD match funding the £186.5m already provided by the EU. This was always going to happen however and unfortunately given the foolish spectacle at Christmas last year, when one Department took another to court, this budget is far smaller than what could have otherwise been expected.
“I welcome the £250m for the Farm Business Improvement Scheme, but it needs to be reiterated that this is not money secured – this is money which DARD hopes to secure. I would have concerns however that considering the fact that our Health Department is facing a £160m black hole in this year’s budget and the Executive has been unable to find anywhere near enough money to fill it, then truthfully how do DARD expect to receive £250m over the coming years to pay for this scheme?”