Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill today stressed the need for a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that is adequately funded, simplified and which allows for regional flexibility to meet local needs.
The Minister was speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) in CAFRE Greenmount Campus, Antrim.
Outlining the key elements of her response to the CAP Reform proposals, Minister O’Neill said: “My focus has always been to ensure that the CAP is adequately funded, simplified and permits regional flexibility to ensure that local needs can be met. The reform proposals have been widely criticised and while my response identifies a number of areas of significant concern, it does, more importantly, also offer constructive suggestions. I believe that these suggestions could provide better focus on the issues the Commission is seeking to address and do so in a more simplified manner.”
In addition to the update on CAP Reform, the Minister updated the audience on improvements in animal health and also the ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.
Highlighting the progress being made in animal health, the Minister said: “The benefit of working together to a common aim has been demonstrated in our progress towards Aujeszky’s Disease free status on the island. With the support of industry, we have in place, monitoring and surveillance arrangements and have introduced new legislation. Our application for disease free status was submitted to the Commission in March.
“Increasingly there is recognition across industry of the benefits of a preventative approach to animal health and the need to drive this approach through strategic partnerships. To this end, I welcome the fact that there is an increasing desire within industry here to deal with non statutory diseases such as Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) and Johne’s Disease and acknowledge the progress being made on the development of an innovative strategic partnership approach to tackling production diseases and BVD in particular.”
Turning to climate change and the significant challenge that it presents to agriculture worldwide, Minister O’Neill reinforced the need to reduce the net greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture: “Working together to produce the Efficient Farming Cuts Greenhouse Gases strategy and action plan will also have significant benefits in a region highly dependent on agricultural production. Together, we can increase awareness of mitigation measures and show buyers of our products that we are implementing measures to ensure we have a more sustainable and lower carbon future.”
In conclusion, the Minister thanked outgoing President Mr. John Thompson and the board of the UFU for their constructive engagement with her and DARD and reinforced her commitment to maintaining this good working relationship with Mr Thompson’s successor.