Future sustainability of the agri-food sector must be secured - Archibald
Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald said the future sustainability of the agri-food sector must be secured.
The Vice-Chair of the Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee said:
“The development of a strategy to ensure the future sustainability and indeed survival of one of our most important sectors must be a priority.
“Any future strategy must encourage sustainable production, best agricultural practice, have a strong focus on the importance of harmonising farming practices with good environmental management and provide adequate support for those sectors of farming who struggle to be profitable on the land available to them.
“To achieve this we must put the best interests of our farmers and agri-food sector first.
“Single farm payments and other payments including agri-environment schemes and the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) Scheme ensure farmers have the means to survive. Without these the average farm income would have been negative last year and in four of the previous five years.
“Our farmers depend on the payments received. This amounts to more than £265 million per year in basic payments and continued levels of support must be ensured to secure the future sustainability of farming and agri-food industry.
“For Sinn Fein the best way to ensure this is through negotiation for special status for the North within the European Union.
“In that scenario the North would remain subject to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the current system of payments which are in place until 2020 when new arrangements will be negotiated.
“The British government do not place importance or policy priority on agriculture and have repeatedly argued, including in previous CAP negotiations that direct payments do not represent value for money.
“The signals coming from the British government are not encouraging. The Minister has her work cut out for her in terms of developing a strategy which secures the future of our agri-food industry under the finances available from the British government.
"The people of the North voted to remain and that vote must be respected.”