Agriculture Minister Andrew Muir has been lobbying politicians from both the Conservative and Labour parties about increasing the budget for NI farm support.

Speaking at the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) annual dinner on Friday, Minister Muir said the UK government has not started any official discussions about agricultural funding beyond 2025.

Support needed

“It hasn’t stopped me from pressing the current administration and the Labour Party about the need for more sufficient support. Let me be clear, the current funding settlement isn’t good enough,” he said.

At present, NI receives around £300m of ring-fenced funding each year for direct payments to farmers.

However, with environmental targets moving up the agenda, Minister Muir said NI farmers will need more money “to ensure a genuinely just transition”.

Another issue, raised by a leading agricultural consultant last week, is the NI farm budget has not been adjusted for inflation.

“When you look at it in real terms, the overall level of support is declining and is set to decline in the years ahead, given those inflationary pressures,” said Michael Haverty from The Andersons Centre.

In his address at last week’s the Irish Farmers Journal spring conference, Haverty said the impact of inflation on the agricultural budget can have a significant impact on farm incomes.

“It is important because in some years direct support can account for a substantial proportion of the overall profitability in farming,” he said.

Haverty also highlighted that the drive by policy makers to use more of the agricultural budget to deliver environmental measures will impact farm incomes.

“With those environmental schemes, there is an argument that needs to be put forward that more support is needed […] because participation in those schemes comes at a cost to farmers,” he said.