UFU elects new leadership team at AGM

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has elected its new leadership team today (01 May), at its Annual General Meeting (AGM) which took place at CAFRE’s Loughry Campus, with some council members participating online.

County Armagh dairy farmer William Irvine, was voted in as president for two years and John McLenaghan was re-elected as deputy president for a second term. He will be joined by newly elected deputy president Glenn Cuddy.

Guest speakers First Minister Michelle O’Neill and deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly, addressed the UFU Executive before the election.

The new president thanked the UFU membership for their ongoing support. He spoke about the importance of the agriculture industry and the challenges farmers and growers are facing following one of the wettest periods on record.

Pictured (L-R) is UFU president William Irvine with guest speakers at the UFU AGM, deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly and First Minister Michelle O’Neill.Pictured (L-R) is UFU president William Irvine with guest speakers at the UFU AGM, deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly and First Minister Michelle O’Neill.
Pictured (L-R) is UFU president William Irvine with guest speakers at the UFU AGM, deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly and First Minister Michelle O’Neill.

Mr Irvine said: “The agri-food industry is a critical part of Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, economically and socially. As farmers and growers, we now have two very important jobs. We must produce enough food to feed a growing population while playing our part in tackling climate change.

“The new future agriculture policy is currently being rolled out here in NI and we continue to lobby to get much-needed sheep support in place. Investing and supporting our NI farming industry, from arable and horticulture to livestock farming, translates into a prosperous future for all. Farmers cannot be sacrificed for other societal objectives. We are essential to both a healthy world and a healthy population.

“A general election is due to take place this year and we will see where all UK parties stand on support for local agriculture. The UFU has continually made the case that we need an increase in the UK, and particularly the NI budget for agriculture. We need unwavering commitment for local farming and food production from all UK parties. Food security must be a top priority for any government.”

Since 2017, farm planning applications have struggled to meet ammonia requirements and over the last number of months, the goalposts have moved again. Mr Irvine highlighted the importance of encouraging sustainable development to help farm efficiencies.

John McLenaghan, UFU deputy presidentJohn McLenaghan, UFU deputy president
John McLenaghan, UFU deputy president

“NI farmers are working to reduce ammonia and are eager to do more by developing their farm efficiently to produce sustainable high-quality food. It’s unacceptable that replacement buildings are treated like they were never there within the planning system under the ammonia protocol – this must change. It is critical that farmers are encouraged and supported to enhance their farm businesses by upgrading buildings, ultimately improving animal and bird welfare and environmental standards. The benefits will not only be significant for the environment, but for consumers, local communities and the wider NI economy,” said Mr Irvine.

In NI, TB remains a major issue and Mr Irvine emphasised that the UFU is continuing to push forward to ensure the disease is tackled in all hosts to achieve eradication.

“TB is one of the most pressing issues for our industry and one of the most heart wrenching. The science is clear, and we are in dire need of an effective program that tackles TB in all its hosts. To say it’s long overdue is an absolute understatement.

“The wildlife control programme in England has been an undeniable success delivering the lowest level of breakdowns for many years, resulting in healthier wildlife and livestock. We hope that with new chief veterinary officer Brian Dooher now in post, that we can get back on track to eradicating this disease once and for all,” said Mr Irvine.

Glenn Cuddy, UFU deputy presidentGlenn Cuddy, UFU deputy president
Glenn Cuddy, UFU deputy president

Concluding his speech Mr Irvine also announced that his chosen charity for his presidential term will be Rural Support. He also mentioned renewables, Lough Neagh, Red Tractor, farm safety and rural health.