Rural Affairs Policy Committee update

THE UFU Rural Affairs Policy Committee has been busy tackling a number of issues that impact on Northern Ireland farming families;

Farm Safety

Given the number of serious accidents occurring on Northern Ireland farms, the Farm Safety Partnership was set up to develop an implementation plan to improve health and safety on farms and save lives.

UFU have been working in partnership with HSENI, NFU Mutual and DARD to develop the Farm Safety Action Plan for Northern Ireland. The key areas and objectives of the plan are provision of information and promotion of safe working, health and safety training, motivating good practice and discouraging poor practice and collection and analysis of information. The Action Plan is intended to be a long term project and it is hoped it will lead to a change in mindset.

As part of this work DARD are developing a new health and safety awareness course to be delivered by focus farms. Having attended a pilot course some Committee members stated that it was very worthwhile going to and encouraged everyone to attend.

HSENI are currently undertaking a programme of 1000 farm advisory visits and have been very impressed with the standard of health and safety that exists on the vast majority of farms that have been visited.

As part of the UFU’s commitment to the Farm Safety Partnership Action Plan, the UFU has launched two Farm Safety Bursary Prizes for students at CAFRE.

Farmers Health

The Farm Families Health checks were launched by the Minster for Health and the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development. The health checks are taking place in mobile units which travel to livestock markets across NI and there has been a great uptake. Farmer’s health and access to quality healthcare are issues that the committee have been highlighting for some time. It is clear that this initiative was long overdue as demand has been unprecedented and nearly 1/3 of participants have had to be referred to their GP. Feedback from participants has been very positive, particularly the fact that nurses conduct follow-up calls.

School Competition

This year the Committee’s annual school competition is aimed at primary schools and is about ‘A Typical Farming Year.’ Children will be asked to choose their favourite season to create a picture to illustrate a farmer’s busy day. Older children will be asked to highlight some of the dangers associated with the activities. There are great prizes for the schools and children and it is hoped children will get a greater understanding about farming and some of the challenges industry faces.

Open Farm Weekend 2013

The first ever open farm weekend held in 2012, attracted over 5,000 people to 13 participating farms. Feedback from visitors was very positive and they left farms with a greater understanding of local food production, modern farming methods and recognition of some of the challenges facing industry. Given this success, the Committee are helping to steer Open Farm Weekend 2013 planned for 15th and 16th June 2013. It is hoped the 2013 event will be even bigger and better and the Committee are encouraging as many farms as possible to get involved. For more information on opening your gates to the general public this June, please contact Lindsay Lyttle on 028 90249449 or visit