Hill farming and beef and lamb policy update

Friday, 13 November, 2020

Commodity watch by policy officer, Daryl McLaughlin

COVID-19 support update

Both beef cattle and sheep payments have been made to producers. Over 11,000 dairy, beef and sheep farm businesses submitted applications to the coronavirus (COVID-19) support scheme resulting in total claims worth almost £18.2million, something which the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) lobbied extremely hard for and was welcomed by producers. £7million approximately went to the beef sector and £232,000 went to the sheep sector.

 

Livestock marts update

Livestock markets remain operational which the UFU have been fighting to retain as we do not want to see disruption like we saw in the spring of 2020. Wherever possible those within the mart should still maintain a social distance of at least 2m (6ft) from one another. Sellers should deliver livestock to the mart on sale day and give relevant paperwork to mart staff without entering the mart buildings and sellers may return to represent stock at point of sale only. Buyers must be registered to attend the mart and declare they are healthy and not in known contact with anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms.

 

Brexit update

Joint United Kingdom (UK) and European Union (EU) committee meetings are continuing on a regular interval now as negotiations edge closer to the end of the transition period. Northern Ireland's (NI) first and deputy first ministers wrote to the EU to urge flexibility in the operation of the new Irish Sea border.

The EU has strict rules on products of animal origin - meat, milk, fish and eggs. These products must enter the single market through a border control post where paperwork is checked, and a proportion of goods are physically inspected.

All these products must also have an export health certificate which is an expensive piece of administration. This could add substantial costs to every trailer load of supermarket goods in particular. The UFU is involved in several meetings with NI Government and political parties to raise farmers issues and concerns around this matter.

What is an NI qualifying good is another issue that is of great concern. UKG legislation issued on 7 October has a very wide definition of what a NI qualifying good is. The problem is that this definition, which will apply from 1 January, will allow any meat in free circulation to be processed in NI and shipped directly to GB without incurring any customs obligations. The UFU has been raising this concern to local and UKG officials and the Union has also been speaking to the UK farming unions about this.

 

Political parties update

Both committee representatives have been meeting the political parties. To date we have met Sinn Fein, SDLP and the DUP. We plan to meet some of the others over the coming weeks.

Key issues discussed has been future agriculture support, ANC, AFBI/CAFRE beef facilities, all-island beef protected geographic indicator, wool market, agriculture flat rate vat and agri-environmental issues which include stocking rates, heather moorland management and heather burning. To date meetings have been constructive which is good.

 

Sheep Health and Welfare Group (SHAWG) conference

The fifth Sheep Health and Welfare Group conference is taking place this year on Tuesday 24 November 2020 and will be the first time the conference has been held online and it is free to attend. This year's conference has the theme of working together for world-leading health and welfare standards and will focus on target areas for the sheep industry to ensure it is ready for the challenges ahead.

The UFU is a member of this group and local sheep producer Crosby Cleland, is the NI representative and the group’s current vice chair. It is a sheep conference not to be missed so we would encourage farmers to avail of. For more info please visit the following link https://ahdb.org.uk/shawg.