UPPER Bann MP and DUP Agriculture Spokes-person at Westminster Carla Lockhart has met with UFU president Victor Chestnut to discuss a range of issues facing the industry at the moment, including labour shortages, the impact of the NI Protocol and the new framework for direct support.
Speaking after the meeting in the House of Commons, Ms Lockhart said: “This was a useful engagement with Victor and the UFU team. Over recent months we have been working closely to highlight a range of issues to the Government, and have made some progress as a result of those co-ordinated representations.
“We remain in constant contact with the Government around the labour shortages within the supply chain, not least in processing.
“We still need the Government to act with purpose in finding solutions to medium and long term labour shortages.
“We need to avoid the back-up of animals on farm, or the loss of animals altogether because the supply chain is defaulting due to labour issues.
“Of course we also need the Government and EU to conclude their negotiations over the Northern Ireland Protocol with proper sol-utions that address issues pertinent to the agriculture industry. We need full solutions, not half-baked pro-posals that paper over cracks and will peel away over time. Time is moving on and the urgency of a deal is clear, whether it be for the potato grower needing seed, those seeking approvals for plant protection products, the im-port of trees, or the smooth movement of animals.
“Finally, we discussed how to ensure the Government prioritises food production in future farming policy, particularly in regard to direct support. Farmers want a policy that helps them to protect and enhance the environment, while being sus-
tainable and profitable food producers.
“That will need appropriate levels of direct payment, but also will need the Government to protect standards that our industry must adhere to. This is something the Government has so far failed to do. We need a change in direction that protects our environmental, animal welfare and production st-andards.”