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Bluetongue is Tops Topic with Minister

17 January 2008

IRELAND, UK - The Ulster Farmers’ Union leadership team met with Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew this week to discuss progress on a number of farming issues. Protecting the Northern Ireland livestock industry from Bluetongue topped the agenda at the meeting.

UFU President Kenneth Sharkey said; “Bluetongue is a major threat and challenge to the industry in 2008. A disease outbreak in Northern Ireland could have major implications for the agri-food sector and it is very important that the industry and Government work closely together to do everything possible to prevent its introduction. We re-iterate our call to producers considering importing livestock to seriously evaluate the risks involved”.

Kenneth Sharkey said a constructive discussion had been held with the Minister and her officials, exploring how progress could be made on a wide range of policy issues affecting local farmers.

The UFU outlined it’s views on the Draft Programme for Government. Kenneth Sharkey said the direct role that Government could play in supporting the local industry was discussed including increasing procurement of local produce by Government Departments and introducing improved labelling controls to inform consumers of produce country of origin.

The Union also outlined its initial views on the CAP Health Check and emphasised to the Minister the need for policy stability and a secure Single Farm Payment until 2013.

Delivery issues were also discussed with the Minister, including a detailed look at progress in issuing this years Single Farm Payment to producers. Kenneth Sharkey said; “At this stage almost 20% of applicants still have not been allocated their payment. We held a constructive discussion with the Minister and her officials on how best to speed up payments to producers and minimise the impact of inspections and validation checks”.

The UFU also took the opportunity to discuss the Red Meat Taskforce Report with the Minister and review progress in reducing red tape in the industry.

Kenneth Sharkey said; “We value the opportunity to discuss in detail with the Minister the issues which are directly affecting farming families. We are travelling across Northern Ireland meeting our members and listening to their views and concerns. This meeting was an opportunity to pass their feedback directly to the Minister”.


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