The UFU’s Chief Executive Wesley Aston used his appearance in front of a committee of the House of Lords this week to highlight both the challenges and opportunities for farmers following the UK referendum on EU membership.
Aston appeared in front of the EU Energy and Environmental Sub-Committee’s inquiry into the impact of Brexit on agriculture along with Guy Smith, Vice President of National Farmers Union.
Aston said: “It was a welcome opportunity to provide evidence and to ensure that the voice of Northern Ireland’s farmers was being heard. The session covered broad issues of trade, support, labour and regulation. The unique situation in Northern Ireland needs careful consideration, in particular the border with the Republic of Ireland and the current trading relationship. It is crucial that a workable solution is found that causes minimal disruption to farms and agri-food businesses. This includes maintaining maximum access to the EU market, while looking at new market opportunities.
“To make a success of Brexit, we stressed the importance of Government actively engaging with the agri-food industry and listening closely to what we have to say. There are opportunities but also very real challenges and the differences in the devolved regions cannot be glossed over. Direct support remains a critical issue, especially at a time when the supply chain does not properly reward producers. It is expected that Brexit will deliver export opportunities but it is also a chance in our home market to increase self sufficiency and for the UK to reduce its food trade deficit. Finally, leaving the EU means we can create our own UK agricultural policy, which we believe can of support active food producers and facilitate generational change while still protecting the environment.”