New leadership team appointed at UFU

Ivor Ferguson, centre, with Victor Chestnutt (left) and David Brown
Ivor Ferguson, centre, with Victor Chestnutt (left) and David Brown

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has elected a new leadership team at its Annual General Meeting, held on Wednesday.

County Armagh sheep and arable farmer, Ivor Ferguson was voted in as President for two years. County Antrim livestock farmer Victor Chestnutt was re-elected for a second term as deputy president. He will be joined by newly elected deputy president David Brown, a cattle and sheep farmer from County Fermanagh.

Thanking the UFU council and members for their support, the new president acknowledged that there are plenty of challenges ahead with Brexit; establishing a new Agricultural Policy that will deliver for farmers will be one of the biggest challenges in over 40 years.

However, Mr Ferguson says we have much bigger challenges closer to home such as the Government’s treatment of farmers, particularly around ammonia emissions.

Mr Ferguson says: “One of our main concerns with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) is that they have not consulted with farmers. Farmers who applied for Tier 2 Grants in good faith have spent upwards of £20,000 and are still waiting over one year later, held up by ammonia regulations. NIEA have changed the rules over the year at least twice with absolutely no consultation with farmers. We need to know who gave permission to change these rules and why. This treatment of farmers is not acceptable.”

Another challenge facing farmers is ridding Northern Ireland of bovine TB. Mr Ferguson says farmers are frustrated at the lack of meaningful action on eradicating the disease.

Ivor Ferguson praised outgoing president, Barclay Bell for leading the UFU and the industry through one of the most challenging periods in Northern Ireland’s agricultural history.

Outlining his priorities as president of the UFU, Ivor Ferguson said: “The threat of imported cheap food is one issue farmers must stand together against as Brexit nears. We have a good relationship with our suppliers and more retailers are buying local. I want farmers to be trusted to deliver safe food, to improve profitability and the viability of our family farms and to pave the way for the young farmers coming behind us.”

Looking ahead to the next two years Mr Ferguson says there is a lot of work to be done. “We need to sell our farming story so that it is heard and acted upon. I believe that we have a good story and a bright future. We have a big market on our doorstep. However, we need to be rewarded for our efforts.”

Who they are:

Ivor Ferguson, UFU President: Ivor Ferguson is a sheep and cereal farmer from Markethill in County Armagh. He is married with four children. He graduated from Harper Adams University with a HND in Agriculture and is a founder member of Armagh Quality Lamb Group. Ivor has always been a strong supporter of the Union. He was Chair of the UFU Pork and Bacon policy committee and represented the Union at the Pork and Bacon Forum. He is also a member of the CAFRE Advisory Group, representing the intensive livestock sector. Ivor has successfully completed four years (2014 to 2018) as deputy president of the UFU representing the beef and sheep, arable and vegetable, the intensive sector and also hill farming committees.

Victor Chestnutt, UFU Deputy President: Victor Chestnutt is a fourth generation livestock farmer based on the North Antrim Coast, near the Giants Causeway. Married with two grown up children, Zara who works in CAFRE Advisory Service and David who works on the farm along with Victor’s wife Carol. A Greenmount student in 1978, Victor developed the home farm into several livestock enterprises mainly sucklers and sheep with his son moving into dairying in 2009. Pedigree Texel Sheep were introduced in the early 80s. Victor represented N.I. and held many positions within the Texel Board, culminating in being Chairman and President of the British Texel Sheep Society. Victor has been re-elected for a second term as deputy president having served 2016-2018.

David Brown, UFU Deputy President: David Brown is a cattle and sheep farmer from Florencecourt, County Fermanagh. Passionate about grassland management, David is a committee member of Fermanagh Grassland Club and has served as chairman. Within the UFU David represents the South West group on the beef and lamb committee. During two years as County Chairman, David represented farmers’ concerns throughout the extreme flooding of 2015/16 and the subsequent Rivers Agency review.