Farmers in Northern Ireland will have to brace themselves for a change regarding the way subsidies are made available to the industry, according to Co Armagh-based agricultural consultant Jason McMinn.

It seems likely that the current basic payment scheme will end in the UK after 2020, he said.

“Currently, 20% of my clients would not be able to make ends meet without access to this level of support.

“But the reality is that producers must commit to becoming more efficient and putting themselves in a position where they can survive without direct subsidies.”

McMinn added that farmers in Northern Ireland must be allowed to operate on a level playing field.

“There is talk about income insurance and possibly crop protection schemes being introduced post 2020."

But farmers must have access to realistic market prices in the event of the basic payment ending.

McMinn was a speaker at the recent YFCU agri conference, held in Co. Tyrone. He pointed to New Zealand as a country where direct agricultural payments had been repealed.

“This happened back in 1984. Subsequent to this only a very small number of farmers in that country left the industry.

“However, the New Zealand government introduced tax changes, in tandem with the decision to end subsidies, which significantly help the cause of the farming sectors.

“And we need to see similar steps taken by London in the wake of the basic payment being removed.”

McMinn said that young people in Northern Ireland must be given a realistic opportunity to avail of careers in agriculture.

“Again it’s up to the UK government to ensure this will happen. No one in farming is owed a living.

"Given what’s coming down the track, farmers will have to get away from a subsidy mind-set. But there must also be fair competition for farmers in Northern Ireland moving forward.”