Politicians in line of fire at UFU annual dinner

Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) president Ivor Ferguson has derided Northern Ireland’s politicians for allowing the Stormont Executive and Assembly to fail.

“You were able to work together in the past: Why not now?” he asked.

Farming and food in Northern Ireland needs political leadership now more than ever before. It is imperative that the Stormont institutions are re-convened as quickly as possible.

Ferguson made these comments while speaking at the UFU’s recent annual dinner. His remarks generated an immediate round of applause from almost all the 300-plus union members and guests in attendance.

Prior to the event, an UFU delegation met with its UK farming counterparts – NFU, NFU Scotland, and NFU Cymru – plus the Irish Farmers’ Association to discuss the impact of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

Ferguson commented: “For months now we have been calling for clarity. It is crucial politicians prioritise the needs of business and the welfare and long-term prosperity of the agri-food sector. Food and farming play a key role in both the UK and Irish economies and every effort should be made to ensure the industry is protected.

“It is unbelievable that farmers and growers in the UK, Ireland and in the rest of Europe are still operating without any certainty on a future trading relationship.

This is having real world business consequences right now as well as causing unnecessary stress and huge anxiety for farmers who simply don’t know what trading conditions they will be operating under in the future.

He added: “We want to make clear that a ‘no-deal’ exit would be economically disastrous, and that we need to avoid a catastrophic, disorderly exit from the EU. Any extension must be used constructively and not to merely delay ‘no-deal’, setting up another ‘cliff edge’ scenario.

“There is a common call coming from organisations representing thousands of farming families to ensure free and frictionless trade, alignment on high standards of production, and a determination to cooperate for the best possible future for our members.

“The location of our meeting is significant. Farming families in border regions, like County Fermanagh, have much to lose in a no-deal scenario or a badly managed Brexit. They can expect to face major disruptions to their businesses and indeed daily life.

“It is vital it is understood what is at stake. We stand with other farming organisations in our call for sufficient time to establish a way forward that recognises the needs of farming businesses across Europe.”