Belfast hosts Nuffield Conference

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Northern Ireland continues to punch above its weight, where the Nuffield Trust is concerned, according to former Ulster Farmers’ Union president Campbell Tweed.

“Local agriculture has always had a close association with Nuffield,” he said.

“Numerous industry representatives have become Nuffield scholars with Debbie McConnell, from Omagh in Co Tyrone, adding to this list in 2016.

“The scholarship principle works at two levels. It adds to the knowledge base of the individual carrying out the work. But it also ensures that the agricultural industry as a whole can benefit from the entire body of work that has been built up by literally hundreds of people over many years.”

Campbell chaired the committee, which organised the Nuffield Trust Farming Conference for 2015. The three day event was held in Belfast earlier this week. Approximately 250 delegates, from all parts of the UK, took part in the proceedings. Northern Ireland had previously hosted the conference and annual general meeting back in 2005.

Campbell Tweed believes that the Nuffield foundation will continue to play an important role at the very heart of the farming industry in the UK.

“The fundamentals for agriculture remain very positive looking forward,” he said.

“But there will be times, such as now, when commodity prices will fall below cost of production levels.

“Volatility is a reality: it is not going away. In fact it may well become more extreme during the period ahead and farmers must structure businesses to take account of this reality.”

Given these circumstances, Tweed believes that farmers in Northern Ireland must be prepared to change the way they have gone about their business up to this point.

“This is the reality facing the industry as a whole,” he explained.

“It was also one of the themes discussed at length throughout this year’s conference. And, no doubt, it will continue to galvanise our thoughts well into the future.”