Northern Ireland farmers 'may have backed Brexit in knee-jerk move', says UFU
The farming industry in Northern Ireland is facing its most important decisions in a generation as a result of Brexit, the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) has said.
The UFU, which declared itself neutral ahead of the referendum on EU membership, said that farmers would have to wait a long time for any degree of confidence in their future.
UFU president Barclay Bell added: "There are many areas where we need reassurance that the position of farmers will not end up worse.
"These include long-term substitute support measures for the common agricultural policy (CAP), market access to Europe and a simple trading relationship across the Irish border for all agricultural products."
He told how the UFU had held meetings of its board, as well as meeting the Agriculture and Economy Ministers, Michelle McIlveen and Simon Hamilton, with further discussion scheduled for the future.
"We do not underestimate the sheer scale of the task, but continued financial support and access to markets is key to the survival of the farming industry here, and indeed to the many thousands of jobs in food processing," Mr Bell insisted.
He also maintained that a strong union was needed to represent farmers' views - but added that farmers and their families should be patient.
"In an uncertain agricultural world, they want reassurance and certainty, but for now the only certainty is that the existing CAP support measures and trading arrangements will remain in place until a new system is agreed," he said.
Around 38,000 farmers and rural projects across Northern Ireland shared nearly £350million of EU funding under the CAP in 2013/14.
The UFU president welcomed recent assurances from the ministers that they would try and protect the industry.
"We were encouraged by their commitment and by their assurances that they will be at the centre of negotiations at Whitehall," Mr Bell said. "Like us, they recognise that there is no roadmap to a final decision, and that the industry needs an assurance of future financial support and market access.
"That has to be a good starting point for the long negotiations that lie ahead."