McAleer: Farmers in the North could be left behind

Farmers and rural communities in the North could be left behind as the Republic moves ahead with implementing its €10.5 billion share of the EU Common Agriculture Policy budget, Northern Ireland Agriculture Committee chairman Declan McAleer has warned.

The Sinn Féin MLA said: “While our farmers have absolutely no certainty about funding beyond 2022 and no progress on the British Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund, the Irish Government has undertaken a public consultation to inform their CAP national strategic plan with a confirmed budget of €10.5 billion.

Not only has the British government dragged us out of the EU but they have also robbed us of £34 million that we had in the previous Rural Development Programme by not letting us carry this over to this year.

“I raised this issue with the DAERA Minister in the Assembly on Tuesday and pointed out that this difference poses a serious threat to our farmers’ ability to compete on a level playing field with our counterparts in the south.

“The new CAP also gives farmers in the south and across the EU certainty of continued direct payments along with a strong focus on generational renewal, young farmers, environment and climate action, while Britain moves away from the CAP model of support.

“This is grossly unfair to our farmers, rural businesses and community sector who are the backbone of the rural economy and society.”

‘No commitment beyond 7 years’

Responding to McAleer’s question, Minister Poots highlighted that even within the EU there was no commitment beyond the next seven years.

“We have a commitment on the issues around Brexit and funding until the end of this mandate,” he said.

“No Government can make a commitment for a future Government; it will always lie with that particular Government.

The EU runs seven-year cycles, and there is no commitment beyond the seven years in that respect either.

“Therefore, we should not be talking up the fact that there is no commitment beyond this mandate. We have a commitment for this mandate, and I believe that there will be substantial support for agriculture and the environment beyond the mandate of this Parliament.”