According to the UFU, a series of meetings were held between it and key players involved in the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) reform negotiations. UFU president Harry Sinclair and the chief executive Clarke Black were in Brussels to meet the EU Commission’s Chef de Cabinet, while deputy president Barclay Bell met with the UK Agriculture Minister David Heath.
Sinclair said: “The June deadline to agree a final CAP deal is fast approaching and we are not wasting any time. The trilogue discussions between the European Parliament, EU Commission and the EU Agriculture Council have started and there are still significant issues from our perspective that have yet to be considered properly. The UFU leadership team have been working hard to bring these issues to the attention of the key players in the CAP reform process.”
He explained the new reform on CAP is meant to be targeted at active farmers, but he said the UFU was still lacking clarity on how it would be done effectively. “Although, following our meeting with the EU Commission, I believe they now have a more solid understanding about the serious impact such a lack of clarity would have on Northern Ireland,” he said.
Sinclair added that the European Parliament and the EU Agri Council had both voted in favour of allowing the transfer of funds between Pillar One and Pillar Two, which has caused alarm. “However, there is strong support from the EU Commission that any such transfer must be co-financed by the government,” he added.
“The UFU continues to stress that the transition to a flat rate payment needs to be over a longer period of time and on a linear basis. Northern Ireland’s farmers need time to be able to plan their transition in order to maintain their viability.”
He concluded that the overall meetings with the key players had been very productive. He said: “We are making a strong case for Northern Ireland’s farmers and our voice is being heard.” Sinclair added that UFU would continue to work up until the end to ensure its views on the final CAP deal were workable for Northern Ireland.