Young farmers launch new strategic plan

Attending the launch of the YFCU's three-year strategy document are McCallister, manager Land Mobility Programme, and James Speers, YFCU president
Attending the launch of the YFCU's three-year strategy document are McCallister, manager Land Mobility Programme, and James Speers, YFCU president

The Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) has launched its new strategic plan, covering the period 2018 to 2021.

The document, which envisages the continuing growth in membership of the organisation, focuses on the growing range of services which the organisation will deliver for members during the period ahead.

It also further defines its role as a key stakeholder within Northern Ireland’s farming sector.

Improving farm safety standards has been a core objective for YFCU over the past number of years. In this context, the new strategic plan foresees the strengthening of relationships between the Northern Ireland Farm Safety Partnership and the Yellow Wellies, Farm Safety Foundation (FSS).

“We already have six Farm Safety Ambassadors appointed who have been liaising with all our clubs on a proactive basis,” confirmed YFCU president James Speers.

“However, with the help of the Yellow Wellies FSS, they are currently receiving bespoke training over the coming weeks on all aspects of farm safety. Armed with this new skills base, they will be in a position to provide farm safety workshops to all our clubs during the period ahead.”

YFCU is also committed to forging a deeper relationship with the training organisation LANTRA to provide an expanded range of courses.

These have been designed to deepen YFCU members’ skills base across a wide range of subject areas.

To date these have included conservation-related projects and safer tractor driving courses.

YFCU will also be forging closer relationships with the College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE). Currently, both organisations are jointly providing first aid training opportunities for all members of farming families.

“Where agri-food matters are concerned, YFCU remains committed to communicating the field to fork message to a wider audience,” James Speers further explained.

“Farmers are a fundamental part of the food supply chain. Training of the highest quality will be required to allow young farmers reach their full potential. We also want to see the creation of the circumstances which encourage young producers to develop new ideas and bring innovation to bear within their businesses.

He added: “Further improving farm business efficiency is also important. Two key animal health priorities for YFCU over the coming years will be those of helping to tackle the challenge associated with antimicrobial resistance and the need to further improve biosecurity on farms.”

The YFCU president highlighted the organisation’s ongoing commitment to further developing the Land Mobility Programme, launched in conjunction with the Ulster Farmers’ Union just over 12 months ago.

“The good news is that the project is delivering on its potential,” he explained.

“It supports the clear desire of our members to develop more productive methods of land use.”

A move away from conacre to longer term land use arrangements has long been identified as a crucial development in helping to improve farm productivity in Northern Ireland while, at the same time, giving younger farmers an opportunity to get their foot on the ladder of a fulfilling career within production agriculture.

According to James Speers, the YFCU will campaign to ensure that the young farmer support measures introduced by the European Union (EU) in 2015 are fully maintained post-Brexit.

“The Young Farmer Payment scheme has been extremely successful,” he said.

“But it still needs tweaked. For example, the new farm policy measures introduced by the UK government must recognise the need to support those producers who were not eligible for the Young Farmer Payment because they had become had of holding prior to its introduction.

“This was grossly unfair.”

For further information, telephone YFCU on (028) 9037 0713.