The Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) has launched its Strategic Plan, covering the period up to 2018, which will see the organisation build on the strategic development successes that it has secured over recent years.
“A new era has dawned, not just here, but for agriculture as a whole throughout Europe,” confirmed YFCU President Roberta Simmons.
“Young farmers have been officially recognised within the new CAP arrangements as being a critical stakeholder group within agriculture, one which will play a key role in determining the future shape of the industry.
“YFCU is the voice of young farmers here in Northern Ireland and we are committed to ensuring that the views of members are taken on board by decision makers locally, nationally and in Brussels.”
Simmons confirmed that YFCU is in the throes of finalising a new land mobility service, which will allow young farmers develop strong, working relationships with those older producers who have no direct line of succession.
“This issue goes to the very heart of maintaining a sustainable farming sector here in Northern Ireland,” she said.
“Research into the feasibility of the envisaged service will get underway shortly and should be completed by January of next year. We have also forged strong links on this matter with the Ulster Farmers’ Union. But to say there is a need for the service is an understatement, given the success of the pilot schemes that have already been launched in the Republic of Ireland.”
Commenting on the future prospects for Northern Ireland’s agri-food sectors as a whole, Simmons confirmed that YFCU had been fully involved in the development of the Going for Growth strategy.
“And this will remain one of our key priorities moving forward,” she said.
The co-ordination of training and education-related projects has been a hallmark of the YFCU since the organisation’s inception over eight decades ago.
“And we want to build on this significantly over the coming years,” confirmed the organisation’s president.
“A case in point is our forging of a strong working relationship with LANTRA, which will see YFCU offering tractor handling and spraying courses in the New Year.”
But, as Simmons pointed out, YFCU is also committed to addressing the many social challenges that confront rural communities throughout Northern Ireland.
“Rural isolation is one of these touchstone issues,” she explained.
“It is a challenge that has many facets. But one of the most important of these, at the present time, relates to the proposed changes to the Road Traffic Act. If enacted, these will severely discriminate against young drivers in rural areas.
“The 12-month training period proposed before a young person could take their test and the limit proposed on the number of young passengers which a young driver may carry for a period after qualifying would create very significant practical difficulties.
“Young people in rural areas simply don’t have the alternative options available to them when it comes to getting around and the proposed Bill contains some measures which would seriously limit their mobility .”
The YFCU president confirmed that the organisation’s ‘Know Your Neighbour’ scheme continues to go from strength to strength.
“We are also committed to working with all sections of the community and will follow successful campaigns with disability groups and the GAA with work on gender and sexuality issues.”
On the subject of the organisation’s finances, Simmons said that YFCU remains deeply appreciative of the core funding received from both DARD and DENI.
“It goes without saying that we want these relationships to be maintained, as they represent the very lifeblood of the organisation.
“And we also remain committed to developing the strongest possible working relationships with commercial partners and NGOs.”