The European Commission has proposed that farmers are paid a once-off lump sum to offset the increases in costs that they have experienced since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.

The commission says increases in energy, fertiliser and feed prices are disrupting the agri sector and rural communities.

The proposal from the European Commission would see farmers and agri-food businesses benefit from a direct cash injection.

Farmers could get up to €15,000 and SMEs could benefit to the tune of €100,000, aimed at offsetting input cost increases.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Januz Wojciechowski said farmers have continued to produce food under difficult circumstances and for some, survival is at stake.

The proposal must get approval from the Council of Ministers and the parliament, and the commission proposes the payment be made by October next year.

The proposal is to allow member states to make the one-off payment from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

Member states will be allowed access 5% of their EAFRD budget for the payments, which must be targeted at those most affected by the current crisis and who are engaging in efficient and sustainable farming.

The payments can be made until October 2023.

Responding to the proposed scheme, a spokesperson for Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said no proposal has yet been seen.

But the minister and the Government will continue to examine all options to support farm families in any way possible during this time of considerable challenge.

Calls to support farmers in NI

The Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) said the war in Ukraine has highlighted the fragility of food security at home and abroad.

The union said the UK is "sleepwalking into a disaster" on maintaining food supply if political priorities do not change.

UFU president David Brown said: "Farmers are seriously struggling to manage unprecedented inflationary costs. Over the past year input prices for diesel, electricity, steel and concrete have doubled. Fertilisers, along with agri chemicals, have tripled in price over the same time period.

"If government as well as retailers don't step in to ease the pressure, our food security is going to take a massive hit impacting the availability of locally produced, affordable food for consumers," he added.

"Governments in EU countries are stepping up and supporting their farmers and growers, we need the UK government to do the same," he said.

"In particular, this summer will be a critical time in the production calendar, both for livestock and dairy farms planning their forage in the autumn and for crops in 2023. This is a key time to signal confidence for smooth ordering of inputs and reliable outputs for the next 18 months."