The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has said the next UK general election, which takes place on July 4, is the “most important Westminster election in generations”.

The union said the next UK parliamentary term will be “pivotal” for Northern Ireland‘s farmers and is calling on politicians to provide what is needed to ensure that economic, environmental and social outcomes are delivered in Northern Ireland.

The UFU has put forward three asks of the next UK government:

  • That the ring-fenced annual farm support and development budget for Northern Ireland is increased to match inflation, increased from £330 million to £389 million, with commitments made beyond a parliamentary term to a minimum of 10 years that are also adjusted to match the future rate of inflation.
  • That the next UK government urgently seeks a sanitary and phytosanitary/veterinary agreement between the entire UK and EU.
  • That legislative targets are introduced to safeguard current domestic food production in the UK, including Northern Ireland’s role in feeding over 10 million people, whilst achieving UK net zero and realising the potential for on-farm renewables to assist in providing energy.

UFU president William Irvine said: “With 670,000 people living in rural NI, and the agri-food sector being the backbone of the rural economy, politicians cannot afford to dismiss the importance of our vote.

“The general election has the power to change the direction of UK politics, ultimately determining the future of agriculture and we all have an influence on the outcome.

“As farmers we must produce enough food to feed a growing population whilst addressing climate change, and we need 18 members of parliament who will help us deliver a sustainable and profitable future for all UK farmers.”

Irvine said this will not only provide farmers with confidence in their family farm, but politicians will be ensuring that the UK population has access to healthy, nutritious food produced locally.

It will also ensure that the environment is looked after by “the caring hands of men and women who farm the land”, he said.

“The future of the family farm structure is at a crossroads, producing sustainable produce and energy but with a poor reward.

“Now, it is time for our politicians to do what is right by our farm families and help our agri-industry to thrive in the next parliamentary term.”