SINCE becoming President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union last April, several issues have dominated the union’s agenda.
From the outset, I have highlighted my wish to see our farm safety record improve significantly. Unfortunately we have gone through a period when there have been many tragedies on our farms. All those farmers and their families are in our thoughts, especially at this time of year, and I would ask every UFU member to give farm safety serious consideration – if there is anything you can do to make your farm safer, then take the time to do it in 2013.
Farm gate prices have also been a central issue. For several years soaring global demand boosted prices in many of our sectors, but 2012 was a more difficult year, compounded by persistent bad weather and the rising cost of animal feed. Regrettably the food chain again failed to work under these circumstances with supermarkets and processors ignoring farmers’ rising costs of production. It remains a fundamental issue for the UFU to create a food chain which delivers a fair price for farmers. We hope the introduction of the UK Supermarket Adjudicator will have a positive impact.
CAP reform has also taken up a huge amount of our time. Our policy committees have put countless hours of discussion and analysis into the CAP Reform proposals and I want to thank everyone for their efforts. We all want a good outcome for Northern Ireland with the Single Farm Payment budget secured and simplification introduced. The UFU is lobbying the EU Parliament, EU Commission and EU Farm Council at every opportunity to put across our members’ views. Decisions made in the coming months during the Irish presidency of the EU, will shape the policy framework for our farms for the next seven years, so now is the time to get it right and agree a policy which will be good for Northern Ireland farmers.
Finally, I would like to wish everyone a peaceful and prosperous New Year. I hope 2013 is a much better year for the farming sector and we are looking forward to working with all our UFU members in the months ahead.