Farmers can now see some green shoots regarding improvements to farmgate prices, says the President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, Barclay Bell, speaking at the Fermanagh County Dinner of the UFU in the Killyhevlin Hotel on Friday evening.
Barclay, accompanied by his wife, Lesley, said farmers have endured a difficult time in recent years but resilience has came to the fore.
With plenty of discussions on Brexit, Barclay said it would bring opportunities as well as challenges and the Union had been having a good look at its structure and recognise that this was the biggest challenge facing the industry in Northern Ireland for 40 years.
“While there may be opportunities, we have to recognise the challenges as well,” he said, adding that farmers would have to face up to their environmental responsibilities.
Highlighting the work of one of the Union’s committees, the Rural Affairs Committee, which carries out wide ranging work such as rural health, broadband and helping with the promotion of Open Farm Weekend, the President said one of the major issues was the provision of rural GPs. Young doctors in training are now being given the opportunity to work in rural health modules where they can see the issues facing people in the countryside and it has been a great success.
Three farms in Fermanagh took part in Open Farm Weekend which was a great success this year.
The President went on to say how they will be persuading the Government to ensure payments to farmers continue. The agri-food industry supports 100,000 jobs.
“If farming is doing well, the whole country is doing well,” he said.
He also highlighted how household spend on food had dropped dramatically.
“Before we joined the EU the average household spend was over 30 per cent but now the spend on food is 15 per cent.
“These payments are not about subsidising farmers but giving you safe, secure and cheap food.
“We realise there is a dysfunctional supply and its okay for retailers and processors to make a profit but farmers must make a profit as well.
He also highlighted the forthcoming centenary of the Ulster Farmers’ Union in 2018 and how they along with the other three unions are a voice for 80,000 farmers to government that farming is worth supporting.
He concluded by saying the next generation was vital for their industry. He was hopeful that the land mobility scheme would be rolled out in the next year.
Mr. Glen Cuddy proposed a vote of thanks on behalf of the guests who included the Chairmen of the various counties and their wives, the Union’s County Secretary and Technical Officer, Leslie Craig and his wife, June,
Funds raised from an auction and raffle will be going to the North West Mountain Rescue Team.