Markethill man James Speers is the new president of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU).
James formally accepted the chain of office at the organisation’s annual meeting on Saturday.
He farms in partnership with his dad Jim, a local UUP councillor, on the family’s beef and sheep farm.
Speaking at the event, he said, “Challenges abound for the farming industry at the present time, Brexit being one of these.
“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, a former pupil of Markethill High School and Royal Agricultural University, joined Collone Young Farmers’ Club in 1999, rising to the position of deputy president in 2015.
He said, “The scope of our organisation is truly immense. 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.”
Another of James’s priorities is to continue working closely with the Farm Safety Partnership to promote the highest possible health and safety standards on local farms.
He said, “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.”