With the easing of Covid restrictions in the UK and Belgium, I was delighted to be able to join Ulster Farmers Union for their meeting with the Office Holders of the other UK Farming Unions at the end of March. This event had to be cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic and it was good to meet the Office Holders and their top team for the first time together in person for the first time since I became BAB Director just over 2 years ago. In this role I represent the four UK farming unions in Brussels and the BAB office acts as a catalyst for discussions between the unions.
Not surprisingly the crisis in Ukraine was one of the main items we discussed. I was able to update the Presidents on our conversations with the Ukrainian National Agrarian Forum, on what is happening on Ukrainian farms that play such an important part in the global supply of cereals and oilseeds, as well as on the response of the European Commission to the unfolding crisis, including the provision of €500 million of exceptional aid for EU farmers, the loosening of the state aid framework and the encouragement to plant additional areas with crops.
Other issues discussed with the Office Holders included the future models for agricultural support in different parts of the UK, the trade agreement within the EU with a particular focus on the issues arising from the Northern Ireland Protocol. After the meeting we met with President of the Irish Farmers Association, Tim Cullinan and IFA Director Elaine Farrell to discuss UK-Irish trade. Thanks to UFU colleagues for organising the meeting and arranging visits for me to member farms as part of the visit.