The Ulster Farmers’ Union says that after a meeting with the Defra Secretary, Michael Gove, it is reassured that he understands the challenge of developing a new approach to farm support. Speaking after a meeting that included representatives of all the UFU commodity committees, its president, Barclay Bell, said it was encouraging Gove accepted the overriding need for farms to be profitable.
“This is the second meeting we have had with the Secretary, and I believe he is taking on board the issues raised by the farming industry, said Bell.
The UFU was encouraged by Gove’s commitment to not only continue the existing level of support during the current Parliament but also his willingness to see decision making devolved to the UK regions, in line with existing funding commitments. “We discussed his suggestion of a freeze in individual payments to farmers during a transitional period until a new support system was introduced and of the potential to pilot new support mechanisms, which we could possibly implement at a regional level, said Bell.
In terms of trade, Gove was clear about his support to maintain the current arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and also with the European Union. Bell said, “We were pleased to hear him restate his position that lower standard imports should not be allowed to undermine UK producers. We also received assurances about farming and the food industry maintaining access to labour, which was welcome.”
The UFU believes that Gove fully understands the problem with regulation and the key difference between outcomes and process the latter being red tape for the sake of red tape. “If he can bring this into a new support policy for UK agriculture it will be a major gain for the industry,” said the UFU president.
“There’s no getting way from the fact that at Westminster and in the Conservative party Gove is seen as a political big hitter and that will be good for agriculture. He has clearly been in a listening and thinking mode since we last met him, and that is better than snap judgements about the way ahead. We now know that while he wants to see farmers deliver for the environment which we all support that has to be in the context of profitable, family farm businesses,” said Bell.