A group of concerned livestock farmers in Northern Ireland have organised a crisis meeting to highlight their fears about the effect CAP reform will have on their livelihoods.

The group, led by former Farmers Weekly Beef Farmer of the Year Sam Chesney (pictured), from Kircubbin, County Down, are warning that businesses are being put at risk by the proposed reforms.

The farmers involved are arguing that farms could be forced out of business unless there is a support payment for all suckler and dairy cows in severely disadvantaged areas.

Speaking in advance of the meeting, Mr Chesney said: “This is a crucial meeting which I would strongly encourage all livestock producers to attend. It is not an empty threat – livelihoods really are at risk.

“Recent figures published show about 87% of farmers’ income comes from their single farm payment, which just emphasises how important this payment is to us.

“A strong and united voice from the farming community is urgently needed to be able to influence our government to take the right decision for Northern Ireland agriculture.”

See more: Northern Ireland set to lose on CAP

Mr Chesney said it was vital that a fair and equitable CAP plan was agreed for all farmers in Northern Ireland, regardless of the sector or region they farm in.

“The only way this can realistically be achieved is by having two regions with a support payment for all suckler and dairy cows in the severely disadvantaged areas.

“There must also be as long a transition period as possible to allow farm businesses to adjust or else many farms will simply be forced out of business, which will have a significantly detrimental effect on rural communities and the economy in general.”

The crisis meeting, which is open to all livestock farmers to attend, will be held Monday 7 April at 8pm in the conference hall at Greenmount.

Mr Chesney will be chairing the meeting, which will host a number of key speakers from DARD and the industry who will outline the options for single farm payments going forward and will be followed by a question-and-answer panel debate.

Confirmed speakers include Norman Fulton who is head of the DARD policy and economics division, Chris Mallon, chief executive of the National Beef Association, and Ulster Farmers’ Union policy director Wesley Aston.