Stormont’s Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (AERA) Committee chairperson, Declan McAleer, MLA says that he supports the four pillars laid out in the future policy framework document, recently published by agriculture minister, Edwin Poots.

These are: Increased farm productivity; improved resilience; environmental sustainability; and a responsive supply chain.

But the Sinn Féin politician wants to see these principles converted into firm policies for the future as quickly as possible.

He told Agriland: “It will be for the next Stormont Assembly and Executive to agree the final framework strategy.

But it’s important that as much groundwork as possible is achieved in this regard over the coming months.”

Balanced approach to agriculture in Northern Ireland

McAleer also wants farm policy in Northern Ireland to mirror that which is already in place courtesy of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) across the rest of the island.

He explained: “We need a balanced approach to farm support throughout Ireland. And this must include a provision for Tier 1 and Tier 2 budgets in both jurisdictions.”

McAleer was responding to the confirmation by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) that £300 million will be made available in the form of direct payments to farmers across Northern Ireland this week.

He said: "The Single Farm Payment is essential for the survival of many farm businesses, accounting for around 90% of farm income.

Whilst I welcome the allocating of over £300 million this week, I have serious concern for future years and whether the British government will honour this financial support, now that we are out of the EU.

"The fact that there has been no progress on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which was supposed to replace the lost EU funding, has done little to inspire confidence," he added.

Future Policy Framework Document

In August the DAERA Minister published a future framework document published outlining a vision for a new agriculture policy based around the broad themes of productivity, environmental sustainability, improved resilience and a responsive supply chain.

However, the DAERA Minister needs to move swiftly to publish his policy proposals so that farmers can give their views on what these will mean for their businesses," McAleer continued.

"I have met many farmers in recent weeks, who have so many unanswered questions about the future of their entitlements and the shape of future farm support measures, and this uncertainty makes it incredibly difficult to plan ahead."