Northern Ireland

Farm minister: We must 'move away from notion of subsidies'

The panel at a DUP breakfast in Belfast on Wednesday morning
Image caption The panel at a DUP breakfast in Belfast on Wednesday morning

The UK's farm minister says the agriculture industry will have to "move away from the notion of subsidies".

George Eustice outlined a range of different support measures for farming under consideration.

He was speaking at a DUP breakfast in Belfast on Wednesday.

These include insurance policies to support farm incomes and agri-environment schemes for which eligible farmers would get a payment.

Mr Eustice said processors and retailers would also have to share the profits of food sales with producers if the industry was to have a future.

The government has agreed to continue subsidy payments to farmers until 2020.

Mr Eustice said leaving the EU would provide an opportunity to do things differently.

He said society had to acknowledge that farming was a "risky business" vulnerable to price fluctuations, weather and disease.

Among the ideas he is considering allowing farmers to build up a tax free "crisis reserve".

Image caption George Eustice outlined a range of different support measures for farming under consideration at a DUP breakfast in Belfast on Wednesday morning.

He said a Canadian style insurance system that kicked in to protect farm incomes in a downturn would allow farmers to "keep their heads above water".

Mr Eustice said a "clunky and bureaucratic" Common Agricultural Policy had resulted in a "muddled subsidies system" which did not deliver for the farmer or the environment.

He said more flexible agri-environment schemes centred on water quality could encourage farmers to operate in a way that had spin offs for the countryside and wider communities.

"If farmers are doing work that helps reduce flooding, that delivers for the environment, that improves water quality, that helps farmland birds recover we should pay them for that work."

On migrant labour Mr Eustice said a reintroduction of seasonal work permits could address farmers concerns over access to non-UK labour.