Ulster Farmers’ Union president, Barclay Bell, used his speech at the UFU’s annual dinner to urge the prime minister and government officials to get it right for agriculture. This followed the triggering of Article 50. Bell said farming has bold and ambitious plans for the next twenty years, but warned that these must be a key part of the Brexit discussions.
“Food has been devalued. When it comes to price, it’s a race to the bottom and this is simply not sustainable. We now have the perfect opportunity for fresh and indeed radical thinking to develop a new way ahead for UK agriculture but we need the full backing of the government to help us deliver this,” said Bell.
The UFU president underlined the impact farming has on the wider economy, which gains £7.40 for every pound spent by a farmer. He said politicians, particularly at Westminster, need to take food and food security more seriously. “At the UFU we are forging ahead. Within the next couple of months we will have a document on the table, with a clear vision and a framework for the future of this great industry,” he said. Bell urged his fellow farmers to take up the challenge of change. “Farmers are rightly proud of what they do – and we fight best for our industry when we do so together,” he told members at guests at the dinner in Newcastle.
As the UFU approach its centenary year in 2018 it can look back at a rich history of facing challenges and on lots of positive milestones in the growth of the modern industry of today but we must also look to the future, and the need to shape a new UK policy that will deliver for farming, the food wider industry, consumers and the environment.
‘We have a new generation of adrenalin pumping young farmers waiting in the wings, who have so much to offer this new world. They are keen to embrace technology, keen to drive competitiveness and deliver efficiencies’ said Mr Bell. He outlined how the UFU will be working with younger farmers in its newly established Next Generation Forum, which will include twenty of the best young brains in local agriculture. Mr Bell also announced that the joint UFU/YFCU Land Mobility project will be developed further over the next couple of months, offering young people a route to access land and a future in farming.