Young farmers must enter debate

The YFCU's new President James Speers
The YFCU's new President James Speers

The Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) will continue to raise the bar in the context of its stakeholder involvement within the farming and food sectors, according to the organisation’s incoming President James Speers.

The Co Armagh man will formally accept his presidential chain of office at the YFCU’s annual meeting, taking place today (Saturday).

“Challenges abound for the farming industry at the present time, Brexit being one of these,” he said.

“It is vitally important that the voices of young farmers are heard in this debate. The end game must be a settlement that allows young people to secure the opportunity to develop sustainable careers within agriculture.

“And it is the job of YFCU to collectively work with the entire agri industry to ensure that such a deal is arrived at.”

James cited the development of a successful land mobility service as another priority for the YFCU.

”This project has been developed in tandem with the Ulster Farmers’ Union. A proposal on this matter has been submitted to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. But it is the concept behind the initiative that must be kept sight of at all times. In essence, the service can help young farmers secure the land they need to develop their own businesses on terms that suit all the parties involved.”

James farms in partnership with his father Jim on the family’s beef and sheep farm near Armagh city.

He joined Collone Young Farmers’ Club in 1999, rising to the position of Deputy President in 2015. From the very outset he recognised the role which the YFCU plays in helping to develop the abilities of young people in rural areas right across Northern Ireland.

“The scope of our organisation is truly immense,” he said.

“Young people can join at the age of 12 and continue through until they are 30. During this time they will have the opportunity to forge new friendships, develop new skills and secure valuable qualifications.

“Stock judging, public speaking, travel opportunities and personal development are just some of the activities that YFCU clubs engage in. However, in many ways, the impact we make across Northern Ireland is often greater than the sum of our individual parts.

“It will be a priority for me to ensure that all of this work is continued and, if possible, made more relevant and meaningful for everyone involved.”

Another priority for the incoming YFCU president is to continue working closely with the Farm Safety Partnership in order to promote the highest possible health and safety standards on local farms.

“This is all about coming up with new ideas. And I will endeavour to ensure that YFCU members will be to the fore in making this possible. Our farms must be made as safe as they can possibly be for young people.

“And the same principle holds, where promoting mental health is concerned. Farming has become a very lonely and isolated way of life. The impact of this on mental health can be debilitating.

“I was appointed as an Ambassador for Rural Wellbeing under the aegis of the Inspire Programme at the beginning of this year. I will do everything within my power to encourage a positive outlook on the part of young people living in all our rural areas.”

James concluded: “YFCU will celebrate its 90th anniversary in 2019. I want to ensure that the organisation is playing the critically important role on behalf of young people living in rural areas then, as was the case all those years ago.”