The Ulster Unionist Party has unveiled its manifesto priorities for farming in the upcoming general election.
UUP Agriculture Spokesperson Robin Swann said:
“This is one of the most important elections facing the United Kingdom in generations. The MPs elected next week will have a crucial role in shaping the UK’s future course for many decades to come.
“It’s an especially important election for the future of farming. The sector’s importance to the local economy cannot be overstated – it remains our largest employer, with over 74,000 people working between farming and the food and drinks processing sector.
“So when farming suffers, the Northern Ireland economy suffers. That’s why the uncertainty surrounding the future of farm payments has to be resolved.
“Whilst Northern Ireland’s farmers have potentially the most to lose from a bungled Brexit deal, our Province shamefully still remains by far the least prepared.
“The ongoing absence of a Northern Ireland Executive is proving disastrous at such an important time for local farmers as there has been no progress made on the future model of post-Brexit support.
“Considering the now broken pledge of the Conservative Party to guarantee the current cash totals until the end of 2022 Parliamentary session, my Party now is calling for a guarantee of land payments up until the end of the next 5 year term. That will give new time for a scheme to be devised, as well as giving the industry some much needed certainty.
"Other points we incorporated into our manifesto include ensuring that during the imminent trade negotiations that the UK refuses to compromise on the quality, traceability or high animal welfare standards of its agri-food produce.
“I’ve consistently said that the standards of our food, in comparison to the likes of hormone treated beef or chlorinated chicken from America, is actually one of our greatest strengths when it comes to accessing new markets.
“There is so much more that Westminster could and should be doing to support our farmers. We only need to look at the Republic where they have established a 100 million euro fund for its beef farmers. In the ongoing absence of a local Executive and Minister, my Party has said Direct Rule must be implemented if there is no Stormont deal by January.
“Only then could progress be made for key issues.”