The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has called on the BBC to “urgently rethink its plans” to cut Farm Gate from Radio Ulster following reports that it will be removed from its regular morning slot in the new year.

More than 30 years ago, Farm Gate began as a standalone programme serving rural communities in Northern Ireland and was later moved into a regular slot on Good Morning Ulster and Evening Extra. The latter was also dropped in recent years and the duration of the farming news has been reduced significantly over time. Its duration now is approximately three to five minutes within 24 hours of broadcasting.

Noting the deep frustration and disappointment of the UFU, president David Brown said: “We have been told that the BBC is planning to remove Farm Gate from its slot on Good Morning Ulster’s weekday programme.

“I’m gutted and angered that this important output that caters to our rural communities has been utterly devalued by those with decision making powers within our public broadcasting service. Considering that the agri-food industry is responsible for producing the food we eat, managing our landscape, provides employment, boosts tourism and contributes £6 billion to the NI economy annually, the BBC needs to seriously re-evaluate what message this is sending.”

He commented that this is not the first time rural communities have been left worrying about this service being removed and their “confidence in the BBC is at an all-time low”.

“As a public broadcasting service which rural communities support through their TV licence the same as everyone else in society, the BBC has a duty to inform and educate them on matters of interest,” said Mr. Brown, adding: “By axing Farm Gate, BBC would be isolating rural and farming families. There is no other programme in NI that delivers information on agriculture ranging from policy to farmgate prices and vital information on support for farm businesses. Farm Gate is a familiar voice for farmers and offers company as well as necessary information. The range of content that Farm Gate delivers would not be deemed ‘newsworthy’ by other news broadcasters on a daily basis. Therefore, the BBC would be removing a vital channel of communication which will impact our farmers and urban listeners who are interested in rural affairs.”

He concluded by urging the BBC to treat “this matter of concern with urgency” and to rethink its plans to cut Farm Gate from Radio Ulster.

“Our farmers and members of the rural community across NI need to contact the public broadcaster to air their worries about this service being axed. We deserve to have a voice within the BBC, and for us, that is Farm Gate,” said Mr. Brown.