UFU sets out its stance on NI’s new Agricultural Policy Framework

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has welcomed the department’s proposed Future Agricultural Policy Framework Portfolio as a “step in the right direction”.

A spokesperson said the document reflected the union’s vision for a productive, profitable and progressive farming sector in Northern Ireland.

Representing more than 11,500 farmers and growers across the region, the UFU is the largest representative body for the industry in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland’s new Future Agricultural Policy Framework Portfolio was published on Tuesday (August 25). The document, which is the first of its kind, outlines the future shape of farm policy and payments in the region.

While it is the result of powers Northern Ireland has gained as a result of Brexit, because of terms agreed in the Northern Ireland Protocol, farm payments in the region will still need to operate in line with EU State Aid requirements and will not be subject to the UK Subsidy Control Regime.

A consultation will open on the plans this autumn, which Minister Poots has already encouraged farmers and industry stakeholders to get involved in.

‘Farmers need to be equipped with the right tools’

UFU president Victor Chestnutt said: “The publication of the Agricultural Policy Framework Portfolio for Northern Ireland is a step in the right direction for local farming.

“We want to work in partnership with government to ensure a predictable and manageable transition process to support the development of a productive, profitable and progressive farming industry as we move forward.

As farmers, we need to be equipped with the right tools to be able to meet the growing demand for food both at home and abroad, whilst also protecting the environment and meeting the demands of climate change.

“Our Northern Ireland farmers and growers are a vital part of rural economies for various reasons. They provide jobs [and] drive growth in food production and diversified industries, including renewable energy and tourism – they need to be supported.

“At the very least, we need to maintain the existing level of support for investment in farming. This is crucial to provide a sufficient delivery implementation transition giving individual farm businesses the necessary time to adapt to a new overarching domestic policy for agriculture.

Farmers also need the government to grant them flexibility to give them the best chance to adapt a common policy framework to the different regional needs of farming across Northern Ireland.

“We look forward to the launch of the Future Agricultural Policy Framework Portfolio consultation in the Autumn.”