Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the President of the Ulster Farmers' Union (A67)

  For your information, I have attached copies of Ulster Farmers' Union Papers which outline our initial position on:

    —  the most immediate major reform issue facing agriculture—the Mid-Term Review of the Common Agricultural Policy

    —  the delivery of Rural Development to Northern Ireland Farm Families.

  Both of these documents are relevant to this Inquiry.

  The key question which must be answered is not if there should be continued support for agriculture but how that support is to be delivered. This is particularly crucial given the general objectives of: competitiveness; quality production; environmental compatibility; and rural community development.

  I trust that this is of use to the Committee's Inquiry.

24 May 2002



    —  Following an internal UFU meeting of relevant Central Committee Officeholders held on 1 May, the UFU agreed the following initial position in relation to the CAP Mid-Term Review.


    —  Northern Ireland's farming industry continues to experience severe financial difficulties and must not be disadvantaged further by the Mid-Term Review of the CAP.

    —  The broad thrust of EU livestock sector support should in future be targeted more at grass-based grazing production systems.

    —  The main cause of the industry's difficulties is the Sterling/Euro exchange rate. The UFU continues to support the release of all-existing available agrimoney compensation and calls for the re-introduction and operation of the agrimoney compensation mechanism as part of the MTR until all EU Member States join the Euro.


  (a)  Pillar I/Pillar II

    —  UFU cannot support the transfer of funds from Pillar I to Pillar II.

    —  However, if funds are to be transferred, the mechanism used must be "modulation"—and not "degressivity" or "aid ceiling" introductions.

  (b)  Modulation

    —  The acceptance of modulation is conditional on:

      —  compulsory introduction throughout the European Union and across all farm sectors and sizes,

      —  compulsory 100 per cent "match" funding indefinitely

      —  the funds generated being ring-fenced within agriculture (the issue of "regional" ring-fencing needs careful consideration)

      —  the resultant output mechanism for all future schemes being
  • accessible by all farmers

  • more flexible

  • less bureaucratic—in particular, the introduction of a "single delivery mechanism".

  (c)  Degressivity

    —  UFU cannot support

    —  The "delivery" format of EU agricultural support is the main issue not the level of that support which must not be decreased.

    —  Degressivity only reduces the level of support.

  (d)  Aid Payment Ceilings

    —  UFU cannot support

    —  Would create unacceptable trade distortions throughout both the European Union and within individual Member States.

  (e)  De-coupling

    —  UFU cannot support

    —  UFU calls on the EU Commission to strongly defend the exisitng EU agricultural support structures within the WTO negotiations.

    —  However, if this is to be introduced then it must be based on "historic" as well as "area" information to avoid major support redistribution and must also incorporate an effective "safety net" system to ease the transition.

  (f)  Cross-Compliance

    —  UFU prepared to consider this

    —  Conditional that it is based on "maintenance" and not "enhancement" of current environment, food quality and food safety requirements.


  (a)  Arable

    —  Opposed to further price cuts (but if imposed must be fully compensated)—would decrease competitiveness on NI's grass-based and intensive livestock sectors

    —  Want exclusion of maize from Arable Aid eligibility (alternatively want introduction of "grassland premium")

    —  Support removal of EU arable export taxes and "non-removal" of import levies

    —  Want support provided for protein crops (given protein "deficit" for livestock feed)

    —  Undecided about continuation/removal of "compulsory" set-aside—views to follow on this and voluntary set-aside

    —  Support revision of "regional average reference yields"

    —  Support re-examination of "base areas"

    —  must not be detrimental to NI's arable sector

    —  consideration given to separate maize and all other crops base areas

    —  Want introduction of support for "non-food" crops for all producers—including grassland.

  (b)  Beef

    —  Want clarification on the duration of 2001 Beef Regime Reforms

    —  Support

        —  reduction in 2nd stage BSP eligibility age

    —  permanent removal of 90-head limit

    —  removal of minimum SCP heifer requirement

    —  removal of suspension on SC Quota National Reserve

    —  reduction in siphon on partial SC Quota transfers to 5 per cent

    —  review of SC Quota "ring-fence" arrangements

    —  exclusion of sheep on which SAP claimed for Extensification Premium livestock count

      —  inclusion of arable forage crops not receiving Arable Aid in Extensification Premium forage area

    —  reduction in level of livestock scheme penalties.

  (c)  Milk

    —  Support retention of milk quota system

    —  Support discussion on options post 2008

    —  Support revision of Dairy Export Refund System—must be more flexible

    —  Undecided on format of "dairy premium" to be introduced from 2005—views to follow.

3 May 2002




  (a)  As DARD are aware, the Ulster Farmers' Union have expressed considerable concern about both the confusion surrounding the definition of Rural Development and the process in which it is currently being delivered.

  (b)  We, therefore very much welcome the Minister's recent announcement to review the communication and delivery of Rural Development within Northern Ireland. We believe the following factors certainly give rise to the necessity for this review.

    —  The continuing unacceptable low levels of Northern Ireland farm incomes which have been consistently below the National Minimum Wage since its introduction on 1 April 1999.

    —  The start of the Mid-Term Review of the CAP, where considerable debate will be centred round the transfer of funds from Pillar I to Pillar II and how should this be achieved and co-financed.

    —  The implementation of Vision.

    —  The English Policy Commission's recommendation for the introduction of a "single, shallow mechanism" to be accessible by all farmers.

    —  The confusion between the Rural Development Plan and Rural Development Programme added to by the complexity in the latter of the number of schemes, from Leader Plus and Peace II through to Building Sustainable Prosperity and Interreg III.

  (c)  In trying to progress this debate constructively, the UFU have recently travelled to both France and Wales to examine at first hand how the equivalent funds are delivered in these regions. While none of these mechanisms are perfect for Northern Ireland, with some effort they could be tailored to provide Northern Ireland's own unique mechanism, that truly supports the multifunctional nature of the Northern Ireland farming community.


  The Union's proposals have two basic elements:

  (a)  A new unique, single, transparent delivery channel

  (i)  Objectives

    —  To recognise, support and enhance agriculture's unique multi-functional role in Northern Ireland's economy, environment and society.

    —  To promote a single holistic "one-stop shop" customer friendly delivery channel which would embrace the delivery of the Rural Development Plan, the Rural Development Programme and other external schemes, and could ascertain each farm family's requirements.

    —  To deliver the products of many current and future support schemes through this single mechanism.

    —  To be open and transparent, allowing both the industry and the public at large, to have ownership of the benefits of a Northern Ireland multi-functional rural environment.

    —  To be accessible to all farmers with an annual labour use of at least 550 hours regardless of where they live or whether or not they have specific habitats on their farm. Enhanced rates of financial support should be given to young farmers and provision must also be made within the system to accommodate new entrants.

    —  To be properly funded, in order to achieve the sustainability, the increased competitiveness and responsiveness to the market of the industry.

    —  To be phased in over a period of years, initially absorbing the current plethora of schemes and finally replacing them.

  (ii)  The delivery channel would embrace the three-pillars of multi-functionality:

    —  Economic

      —  Enhancement of product quality eg improvement of genetics, attaining and improving assurance standards and food safety etc.

      —  Enhancement of bio-security and disease prevention eg individual electronic identification, disinfection vehicle baths, fencing of livestock apart to stop disease-spread etc.

      —  Diversification—eg creating value-added opportunities from the food chain, rural tourism, alternative land uses etc.

    —  Environmental

      —  Habitat creation—eg ponds, hedges, etc, through woodland grant schemes and other new schemes

      —  Sustaining of habitats—eg looking after existing habitats through Environmental Sensitive Areas, Countryside Management Schemes and Farm Woodland Premium Scheme and other new schemes.

      —  Pollution prevention—eg repairing and fixing dirty water, silage effluent and slurry facilities through new capital grant scheme for waste management.

    —  Social

      —  Rural employment—eg support for maintaining and increasing rural employment.

      —  Succession planning through new entrant and retirement schemes.

      —  Development of People—New training and facilitation of continuous professional development.

  (iii)  Delivery Mechanism

    —  The services incorporated would involve the provision of support by a facilitator/coach/mentor who would guide the farmer and his family through the process of:

      —  defining his personal, family and business objectives;

      —  critically analysing their current position;

      —  considering their options;

      —  developing a business plan using a mix of the economic, environmental and social measures identified to suit their particular needs and objectives.

    —  This entails two basic functions

      —  Communication and facilitation

      —  Needs analysis and monitoring

  (iv)  Proposals on Delivery

    —  The Ulster Farmers' Union to support DARD in the communication and facilitation of this mechanism, by putting in place UFU "facilitators".

    —  Needs analysis and monitoring should be carried out by DARD's extension service rather than utilising additional funding for private consultants.

  (v)  Co-ordinated Approach

    —  Of particular interest to the UFU from the Welsh experience is the dynamic role of the Welsh Development Agency. They have facilitated the drawing down of monies from a multitude of sources and are delivering through one single transparent mechanism, to the maximum of £75,000, to any one family over a two-year period.

    —  The Union believes that it is essential that a similar but refined mechanism is designed and implemented in Northern Ireland, thus enlarging the pool of money available, increasing the numbers of farm families who could apply, while keeping bureaucracy and cost of delivery to a minimum.

  (b)  The development of a practical "technology transfer" system to widely disseminate "best practice" and "innovation" so that farmers can take advantage of new technology opportunities and respond to market signals quickly.

    —  Delivery system

  This would be achieved by the establishment of:

    —  Development Centres which would demonstrate benchmarking, market intelligence: research and development; and specific project work. These Development Centres would be established using the existing research facilities and college based farms throughout Northern Ireland.

    —  Demonstration/Focus Farms which would provide for the extension of this technology transfer/best practice dissemination throughout Northern Ireland through a more commercial farm business environment.


    —  This document outlines the initial position and proposals of the Ulster Farmers' Union in the delivery of rural development to Northern Ireland's farm families.

    —  It is intended that these proposals give some positive direction on this extremely important subject and that they form a sound foundation from which further evolution and development can take place.

    —  The Ulster Farmers' Union would be happy to meet with DARD to explain these proposals and develop them further.

22 May 2002

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