Young farmer top-up proves popular

James Speers, Vice President, YFCU; Roberta Simmons, Deputy President, YFCU and Barclay Bell, Deputy President, UFU at the County Armagh Ulster Farmers' Union Annual Dinner in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
James Speers, Vice President, YFCU; Roberta Simmons, Deputy President, YFCU and Barclay Bell, Deputy President, UFU at the County Armagh Ulster Farmers' Union Annual Dinner in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
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Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) president Roberta Simmons has told Farming Life that a total of 2,200 applications were submitted for the young farmer top-up, under the new CAP support measures.

“This is just 300 short of the numbers who attended the Level 2 training courses, organised by CAFRE last winter,” she said.

“We won’t know the actual size of the top-up that will be paid out by DARD until all the applications have been processed. The envisaged payment, prior to the application process getting underway, was €84/ha. Time will tell if the final figure arrived at is in this ball park.

“But irrespective of the monies actually paid out, the very positive story associated with this development is the fact that so many young people have committed themselves to a future in agriculture. It is good news for the individuals involved and for the farming and food sector in Northern Ireland as whole.

“The YFCU campaigned vigorously to encourage as many young people as possible to consider the opportunities offered by the new CAP measures. And we now have clear proof that all of the hard work put in has paid off.”

Simmons also confirmed that the YFCU has put in place a comprehensive programme of measures for the next 12 months that will allow the organisation to build on its role as a leading stakeholder within the agri food industry.

“Our plans to provide a land mobility service are developing apace,” she added.

“This much needed initiative will allow the YFCU to put older farmers, with no succession arrangements in place, in touch with younger colleagues who can then develop long term development projects for the farms in question on an agreed basis.

“The new service should be ready for its official launch in the autumn.”

The YFCU president also indicated that the organisation will be working to improve safety levels on farms across Northern Ireland over the coming months.

“We are also looking at the possibility of hosting an agricultural conference in early 2016,” she said.

“From a rural affairs perspective, YFCU will be re-doubling its efforts to help in the battle against crime in the countryside. We will also be prioritising on ways to improve mental health in rural areas. My overarching theme as president is to take the YFCU ‘Beyond the Farm Gate’. And all of our campaigns during the period ahead will be developed with this principle in mind.”

Simmons confirmed that the year ahead will also see the YFCU join forces with LANTRA to provide specific training courses for its members across a wide range of farm management related disciplines.

“We have already agreed the licencing arrangements with LANTRA,” she explained.

“This will provide us with access to the specific training instructors required to provide the courses. These will range from tractor and trailer driving through to the safe use of pesticides, spraying methods and AI techniques.

“The courses will be made available on a not-for-profit basis by YFCU. Bringing education and training to the forefront and boosting the skills base of our membership is key, particularly in rural young people.”