‘CAP support changes post-Brexit will have major impact on North’s farming sectors’

Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) support changes post-Brexit will have a major impact on all the farming sectors in Northern Ireland, AHDB’s Tom Hind told this week’s Ulster Arable Conference.

The current CAP payments account for 87% of the farm income generated by farmers in Northern Ireland, he said.

“So it will be critically important for agriculture to have the time it requires to adapt to whatever changes are agreed for the future.”

Hind said that tillage support options beyond 2020 include a crop insurance scheme, tax incentives for growers and the possibility of cutting aid levels to agriculture altogether, the option followed by New Zealand.

“Given the experience gleaned from the United States and Canada we know that insurance schemes are complex, in terms of their operation, and unpredictable when it comes to assessing their impact. They also require the active participation of both primary producers and government.

Also Read: ‘Brussels red tape will be scrapped so UK farmers can get on with farming’

“But what we do know is that they will act to reduce the worst excesses of volatility on commodity markets.”

Hind confirmed that the final Brexit trade agreement reached between the UK and the European will be the lynch pin that holds together the future structure of agriculture in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

“My gut feel is that Whitehall will agree a bespoke deal with Brussels. But we should remember that this will be a two-way process with both negotiating parties having their own agendas to work through.”

Hind also highlighted the significance of cross border trade in agricultural commodities within the island of Ireland.

“Milk is crucially important in this regard, but the same principle holds where lambs and pigmeat are concerned.

“If we end up with a hard Brexit and the WTO tariff levels are introduced in full, the detrimental impact on these trade practises will be immense.”

Hind also flagged up the current grain trading trends that exist between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

“All the maize coming into Ireland at the present time does so through the UK.

“If we end up with a hard Brexit scenario, this trading practise would be exposed to extremely high tariffs, which would have a significant impact on Irish agriculture.”