Roberta Simmons, from Annaclone in Co Down, is the new president of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU). She takes over at the helm of Northern Ireland’s leading organisation, catering for the needs of rural youth, from Co Antrim man Martyn Blair.
“I am really looking forward to the next two years,” Roberta confirmed.
“These are exciting times for the YFCU, as an organisation in its own right, and for the significant role which our members play in adding to the way of life enjoyed across the province as a whole.
“The membership of the YFCU is growing and, obviously, we want to build on this. It will also be important to further cement the role of the organisation as a key stakeholder group with the agri food sectors.”
Looking ahead, Roberta identified the need for better education and training opportunities to be provided for young people growing up in rural areas.
“And, to this end, we will be liaising closely with DARD, CAFRE and the other bodies charged with the responsibility of delivering on this objective. Farming goes to the very heart of the economy in Northern Ireland and anything that can be done to allow farmers go about their businesses more effectively and efficiently will have a positive, knock-on effect right along the entire agri food chain.”
The new YFCU president will also act to ensure that the new CAP support measures deliver for young farmers on the ground.
“I would like to thank and commend Martyn Blair for the tremendous work he has put in over the past two years in delivering a young farmer support scheme that meets the specific needs of our industry here in Northern Ireland,” said Simmons.
“And, obviously, I want to build on this for the future. Farm Commissioner Hogan has already said that he wants to simplify the new CAP arrangements. And I can confirm that the YFCU will be taking an active part in this debate over the coming months.”
Another key objective for the new president will be to provide the means by which older members of the YFCU can remain actively involved within the organisation up to they are thirty years of age.
“We are actively looking at agreeing procedures which will extend the age at which members can participate in competitions from the current cut-off at 25 years of age up to 30,” she said.
“It is crucially important that we keep all of this experience within YFCU for as long as possible. I have been a member of the organisation for the past 15 years and have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.”