Archibald: We need special status for farms

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Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald said the future sustainability of the agri-food sector must be secured whether Britain leaves the European Union or not.

The Vice-Chair of the Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee said: “The development of a strategy to ensure the future sustainability and indeed survival of one of our most important sectors must be a priority.

“Any future strategy must encourage sustainable production, best agricultural practice, have a strong focus on the importance of harmonising farming practices with good environmental management and provide adequate support for those sectors of farming who struggle to be profitable on the land available to them.

“To achieve this we must put the best interests of our farmers and agri-food sector first.

“Single farm payments and other payments including agri-environment schemes and the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) Scheme ensure farmers have the means to survive.

“Without these the average farm income would have been negative last year and in four of the previous five years.

“Our farmers depend on the payments received.

“This amounts to more than £265 million per year in basic payments and continued levels of support must be ensured to secure the future sustainability of farming and agri-food industry.”

She East Derry MLA added: “For Sinn Féin the best way to ensure this is through negotiation for special status for the North within the European Union.”