She was speaking in a debate in Stormont on nature friendly farming.
Said the Foyle MLA: “Farming in Northern Ireland could be about to change significantly and for the worse. The threat comes from the likely free trade deals with first Australia, and subsequently with New Zealand and the United States.
“Northern Ireland’s farming and food production sectors have been placed in needless peril. The guilty parties are the Brexit Leave campaign and the DUP.
“Farmers in Northern Ireland face a major reduction in sales to their GB market.
“This is incredibly important for NI farmers, with almost 60% of their production heading to GB.
“In future, NI farmers will, it seems, be competing against Australian producers, who have the advantages of much larger farms and enormous economies of scale.
“Meanwhile, the risk is that environmentally friendly farming practices that support animal and consumer welfare will be undermined in the future by imported produce that includes hormone treated beef, pig meat contaminated by high levels of antibiotics and chlorinated chicken.
“This is the moment to promote what we have. Our farms are much more environmentally sustainable than many of their international competitors.
“Let us ask consumers to support sustainable production, by buying local produce that is environmentally friendly, organic where possible.
“We have already seen over the last decade serious harm inflicted to the farming sector in NI.
“Farm incomes here have fallen substantially – and by much more than farming incomes in GB.
“We need food processors and the big supermarkets to recognise the market strength they have and not to exploit it.
“They need to pay fair prices, that allow farmers a reasonable return. Too often, farm produce is bought at below the cost of production.
“As a result, many farmers have been forced to leave the sector, while others make very low incomes.
“What is now at risk is the future of our farms and our farmers.
“It is about the appearance of our countryside.
“It is about the welfare of our animals, treating them with care and avoiding pain.
“It is also about the welfare of our consumers – recognising the role that fresh and nutritious produce has in the health and physical and psychological wellbeing of the population, whose best interests we are here to represent,” added Ms McLaughlin.Tags: