Westminster £279m post-Brexit boost for Northern Ireland agriculture welcomed by UFU
Northern Ireland's farmers are set to receive a funding package of £279m in 2020 as part of the Government's support plan after leaving the European Union.
The funding was confirmed today by Chancellor Sajid Javid and the money earmarked is part of an overall £2.852 billion package.
Welcoming the news, Ulster Farmers' Union president Ivor Ferguson said it is vital that Northern Ireland farmers remain competitive following Brexit.
"With the UK set to leave the EU on January 31, this announcement, which delivers on the commitment made by the Conservatives in their election manifesto, is welcome news," Mr Ferguson said.
"It gives farmers some much needed certainty in relation to direct payments, which are crucial for many farm businesses and help ensure the production of the affordable, high-quality food consumers demand.
"Further to this commitment, it is essential Northern Ireland's share of UK funding is maintained, and that we have the ability to regionalise agricultural policy.
"Farming in Northern Ireland is very different to farming in the south of England and regionalisation will ensure that the delivery of this funding best suits the differing needs and structure of our industry here.
"As the Brexit process progresses, it is vital that Northern Ireland's competitiveness in the all-island economy is maintained.
"The level of support payments given to agriculture in the Republic of Ireland must be tracked and matched."
While he did welcome the funding boost, Mr Ferguson also called for further post-Brexit guarantees.
"The Government must also deliver on its guarantees that Northern Ireland will still have unfettered access to the GB market post-Brexit," he said.
"Quick progress must also be made on one of the Conservative Party's other key manifesto commitments - encouraging the public sector to buy local to support our farmers and reduce environmental costs.
"The UFU is now seeking urgent clarity around the specifics of this announcement and will continue to press MPs and Government officials for a longer-term funding commitment to farming."
The cash injection will maintain the level of funding for direct payments at the same rate as last year and the Chancellor said it will allow the farming community to plan for the future with confidence.
"When we leave the EU and are freed from the Common Agricultural Policy, we will be able to support our vital rural communities - who are a cornerstone of life in the UK - with a fairer and less bureaucratic system," Mr Javid said.
"Farmers can enter the new year with confidence that they have our backing and will be able to thrive after Brexit."
Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said farmers who help look after the environment will be rewarded.
The funding will be available from late 2020 and spread across two financial years.