Lochside Garage

Growing farmer fears over loss of EU payments

WITH almost half the workforce in Fermanagh working in the agricultural sector there is growing concern that farmers here have received no assurances that support will continue in the long-term post Brexit.
It is thought that up to 80 per cent of farming income here is derived from EU payments.
In the midst of this uncertainty farmers in Co Fermanagh are increasingly worried about the future of their businesses.
“Agriculture will have to be supported going forward if our farmers are to continue producing food to the high welfare standards we proudly uphold at present,” said Andrew Little, a young farmer from Maguiresbridge.
“Cost of production here is quite high and we need support in order to sustainably produce food which will be competitive in the market place,” Andrew added.
Due to its location Fermanagh is familiar with a considerable volume of cross border trade and travel. As issues around the land border continue to be debated the practical implications of any change to transportation and possible associated costs are already on farmers minds.
“All the milk produced on my farm crosses the border to be processed in Virginia, Co Cavan and I have bought straw from the South. Food products can cross the border up to three times before they reach the supermarket shelves and this is not always seen by the consumer,” he added.
Former MLA Tom Elliott, who runs his family farm near Ballinamallard, has said at this stage “there has been no direct impact” felt by farmers in Co Fermanagh. Yet as the Brexit deadline looms some farming sectors may be more susceptible to potential fall out than others.
“Sheep farmers are one of the sectors of most concern. A lot of sheep are exported from Northern Ireland to mainland Europe as oppose to GB markets,” he adds, however, “The UK Government did allay some fears by saying that they would keep the current funding processes that are in place until at least 2022.
“That gives farmers a bit of comfort allowing a period of time for transition while Brexit is taking place.”
Mr Elliott says the guarantee of continued support in the short-term provides a bit of “breathing space” as matters progress in relation to direct subsidies and as the impact Brexit on the marketplace begins to become known.
Meanwhile, as the North prepares to exit the EU Andrew LIttle is convinced farming will ‘boom’ if the appropriate trade deal is secured but warns that it is now up to politicians to deliver for farmers to ensure that the industry can prosper post-Brexit.
“If they don’t deliver it will leave farmers scratching their heads wondering where to go from here.”


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