Ulster Farmers’ Union president, Barclay Bell, says he was delighted to welcome over 350 guests, including UFU members and key representatives from the agriculture industry and politicians to the UFU’s annual dinner that was held in the Slieve Donard Hotel on Friday, 23rd March.
Notable guests included Stan Phillips, Counsellor for Agriculture Affairs at the US Embassy in London; Denis McMahon, the new permanent secretary for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs; Dan Lawton, US Consul General in Belfast as well as the presidents of the National Farmers’ Union, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru, and the Irish Farmers’ Association.
“This is a very special year for the UFU as we celebrate our centenary and 100 years of being the voice of farmers. Over the years, our organisation has weathered many challenges. Currently, we are in the thick of Brexit negotiations and while there is some clarity about the way ahead, farmers still face uncertainty,” said Mr Bell.
“We believe strongly that access to safe, traceable, high quality food is a public right. It would be a great disservice to the public if the Prime Minister and government use food and farming as bargaining chips when negotiating post-Brexit trade deals.”
Reflecting on a hundred years of farming Mr Bell said: “In March 1934, 1300 farmers packed into the Wellington Hall in Belfast to protest against the imports of cheap food. What emerged from that meeting rings loud and clear today – back our farming industry. We produce the high quality, safe food UK consumers expect. We care for the environment and deliver for the economy. The message to our government today is exactly the same, keep our farmers farming.”
Following the president’s address, the prestigious Belfast Telegraph Cup for outstanding agricultural achievement was awarded to Dr Sinclair Mayne.
Mr Bell continued: “Dr Mayne is recognised internationally for his research on grassland and milk production. He has had an expansive career in agriculture and his work has been ground-breaking. He has held posts including leader of the dairy research programme at the Grassland Research Institute in Devon, Scientific Adviser with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and chief executive of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), a post from which he will soon be stepping down.”
The UFU also presented two other awards on the night. The Mary Wilson Trophy for best overall UFU group performance in 2017 was presented to the South Tyrone Group. This award recognises the group’s outstanding performance in membership recruitment, securing subscription income, and their successful delivery of group meetings and social events throughout the year. Mr Bell said: “Senior group manager Denise Kelso deserves a special mention. She has won the Mary Wilson Cup for her groups a record seven times. Denise joined the UFU as part of the Mid Tyrone Group and her career has seen her involved with north, east and south Tyrone. Sadly, Denise recently informed us she will be leaving the UFU and I would like to thank her for her hard work and dedication over the years.”
The Cuthbert Trophy was awarded to the Mid Tyrone Group for retaining the highest percentage of their members in 2017. The dedication and commitment shown by the group managers and their staff over the year have enabled them to achieve a retention rate of over 99%.