Brexit, and the challenges it will bring, dominated debate at the Ulster Farmers’ Union annual general meeting. UFU president, Barclay Bell, told members it was important to see opportunities as well as threats from Brexit. “Our task is to convince the UK government to deliver the best deal possible for farming,” he said, adding that with the decision to exit the EU taken the remain and leave arguments were over.
In the close to twelve months since the referendum the UFU has been involved on a weekly basis in Brexit meetings with politicians, government officials, other UK farming unions, the Irish Farmers Association, and senior European Commission officials in Brussels. “Our message is clear and coherent. The economic, environmental, and social benefits of agriculture cannot be overlooked. Politicians must get it right. Agriculture must be a key part of the Brexit discussions,” said Bell.
A key goal for farming is to make sure agriculture is protected from cheap imports. It will also need realistic support structures to help farmers adjust to post-CAP economics, while still delivering the rural environment society wants. “This is a unique opportunity to create a completely new and radical UK farming policy. This must be built around a globally competitive industry that delivers for consumers and the environment. Securing that will be our priority after the general election in June,” said Bell.
UFU policy/commodity committees have been debating the future. The UFU president told members those views would shape thinking on the post-Brexit policy detail. “Committees have been working hard and we now have a draft framework in place. We will publish a discussion document on future support for agriculture in the coming weeks, which we will then debate in more detail with UFU members,” said Bell.