Ulster Unionist Agriculture Spokesperson, Harold McKee, has welcomed the announcement that the total income from farming increased from £199m in 2015 to £244m in 2016, a rise of 22%.
Harold McKee, the Ulster Unionist Assembly Candidate in South Down, said:
“Agriculture is an incredibly challenging occupation; it is physically demanding and farmers are repeatedly exposed to price volatility for inputs, as well as their produce.
“Whilst the 22% increase in farming income is welcome, overall incomes are still significantly less than what they were only a few years ago. In 2014 for instance the total income from farming fell by 16%, and this was followed by a frightening decrease of more than 40% in 2015.
“Whilst things are slightly better now, dairy farmers for instance are still struggling to make a profit on the milk they are producing.
“It was infuriating whenever the prices farmers received for their produce were plummeting, the prices consumers were being asked to pay in the shops remained broadly the same. Supermarkets, and some processors, effectively held our farmers to ransom and it was just yet another example of how our farmers were being treated shamefully.
“Whilst I am glad that prices in the short-term do appear to be rising modestly, the next momentous challenge our farmers face is Brexit. Given that not even the most basic plans were made before the EU referendum by the DUP or Sinn Fein, and land based payments have only been guaranteed up to 2020 by HMG. It is now imperative that proper preparations are put in place. That means our negotiating position must be strong and steadfast, yet the disgraceful absence of a local Assembly and Executive has already severely weakened the voice of local farmers."