UK's environmental plans risk Britain's food security, say Northern Ireland farmers
The Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) has warned that UK food security could be at risk if post-Brexit agricultural subsidies focus on environmental protection.
Currently, EU farm subsidies - worth about £3bn to UK landowners each year - are mostly linked to the amount of land that is farmed.
The Government has agreed to maintain the level of farming subsidies until 2024 - a move welcomed by the UFU.
But UFU president Barclay Bell expressed concern that the Government wants to see taxpayers' money going in future years to environmental protection, rather than food production.
In a speech to the Oxford Farming Conference yesterday, Environment Minister Michael Gove said farming subsidies will be replaced by payments for "public goods", from boosting access to the countryside to recreating wildflower meadows.
But Mr Bell said: "We need a balanced approach and Mr Gove must recognise the overwhelming importance of food production and food security.
"Farmers can deliver environmental goods, but if funding is not there to support food security, the UK's reliance on imported food will increase. This would undermine local food production and drive down food and environmental standards."
It is understood that decisions on the level of subsidy for Northern Ireland will have to be made by a local minister.