When I read the comments from the UFU president regarding “wean farmers off subsidy” in the edition of 19 December 2020, I found that incredible and unacceptable.

Farmers need to continue to receive the same level of financial support in future years just to survive, as this is at least 60% of their income.

Suckler and sheep farmers in particular have little cashflow during the year. A lot of fertiliser and meal merchants and agricultural contractors have to wait until the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) is paid.

The majority of farmers are over 50 and are farming because it is a family tradition passed down the generations. I don’t know any other business that would work long hours for as little money in return.

When the meat plants cut beef price to under 320p/kg in April 2020, what did the UFU do? The UFU president points out that poultry farmers can survive without support. But this is because poultry enterprises are a lot more profitable than beef and sheep.

A poultry farmer enters into a contract with their processor, knowing what price they receive, not like the beef and sheep farmer who have to take what they get.

Beef prices have since improved, but still are a long way from covering costs.

We were told by former MEP Diane Dodds to leave the EU. When asked how were farmers going to receive the same amount of support, the reply was that the UK was paying so much into the EU, and getting so little back, there would be money there to support farmers.

Now we are told that in England the government are going to phase out direct payments and replace with grants for the countryside and the environment.

I hope our Agriculture Minister and the UFU can fight for farmers in NI, and that we are treated separately from England, as farms are much smaller here.

And now we see problems with pedigree cattle going to sales in Britain. If we lose our direct payments and are not allowed to trade freely with Britain due to Brexit, I would say to the politicians who said to leave the EU, they have brought disaster on the farmer.

Yours etc,

A concerned farmer.

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