UFU Ards chairman, Fergal Watson
Located in the picturesque townland of Cloughy on the Ards Peninsula, the Ards group chairman Fergal Watson runs his mixed suckler cow and arable crop enterprise. The family have been farming in the area for at least 150 years.
From a young age Fergal had a love and a passion for farming which he inherited from his late father and any opportunity Fergal got, he was out working on the farm. Greenmount was the obvious choice for Fergal when he left school. He then returned home to farm full-time.
It was Fergal’s father who encouraged him to attend the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) meetings as it was a great opportunity to meet like-minded folk close to home but also a way of meeting farmers throughout the country. Attending meetings over the years has been a great opportunity to learn new and different farming practices and also to share farming practices with fellow farmers and friends. Fergal is into his second term as group chairman and has also served as the County Down chairman which he enjoyed very much.
Fergal sits on several different committees within the UFU including the beef and lamb and the environmental committee. There are so many issues affecting farming in today’s society, and it is important going forward that farmers learn to modernise and adapt new practices in order to develop measures that will lead to the long-term sustainability of the industry. It is important that younger people get involved with the UFU as they are the future of modernised farming and their input into adopting changes is essential.
There are many issues which affect farmers regardless of their enterprise and many issues overlap between the different committees. Big issues that are affecting the beef and sheep committee currently include Brexit, TB and future financial support packages for farmers. Issues that the environmental committee are dealing with include carbon and greenhouses gases and ammonia issues. The committee are also currently putting together a new future agri-environmental scheme.
It is difficult to say what the single most important issue is that is currently affecting farming, there are many issues that threaten the livelihood of farmers. We live in a time where there are so many different groups and organisations that have different agendas which ultimately have a knock-on effect on the farming industry. It is important that as a Union we address these issues but also ensure that the voice of the farmer is heard and that farmers can make a fair living in order to preserve the future of the industry for the younger generations coming behind.