THIS YEAR Florencecourt native David Brown took over as president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union.
It was a challenging year for local farmers, between the costs crisis, the ongoing political stalemate at Stormont, and issues over the Brexit Protocol.
Below, in his New Year’s message, Mr Brown shares his hopes for 2023.
“We have marked the end of an extraordinary year. The last 12 months have continued to be a challenge for all of society and it is my belief, that the dawn of 2023 will bring with it a year in which we are likely to see changes that could affect our industry for generations to come,” said Mr Brown.
“Every single one of us is proud to produce some of the best food in the world, and with the right policy framework, we know we can deliver so much more. We can drive the rural economy, enhance our natural environment, contribute to national environmental targets and care for our cherished countryside so it can be enjoyed by everyone, while producing more home-grown, local food for shop shelves.
“The next 12 months could lay the foundations for a thriving food and farming sector where we are competitive both at home and abroad. If the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) create an agriculture policy which has a resilient food supply chain at its heart, we have the potential to not only be the number one supplier of choice for United Kingdom households, but a firm favourite for markets around the world too.
“We cannot ignore the challenges of this year, if we do, we will miss the opportunities of the next one. The government needs to continue to take action to prevent a situation where British food is replaced by food imports – imports which could fall way below our own highly valued standards of animal health and welfare and environmental protection.
“Arguably, the biggest threat to our ambitions is the industry’s ongoing struggle with the stranglehold that bovine tuberculosis (bTB) has over the Northern Ireland (NI) herd and NI farming families. I have lost count of the number of farming families I have met who have seen the future of their businesses thrown into turmoil, and in some cases, decimated by this awful disease ravaging through their herd.
“Words cannot do justice to the impact that the emotional strain caused by bTB has had on these individuals, to see their ambitions thwarted and much-loved animals culled because of the disease. It is utterly heart-breaking. The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) will continue to put pressure on government to act upon the science and to fully implement its bTB strategy.
“As farmers, we all have a view on what would suit our business, and yet, UFU members come together to work for the common good of our industry. From our hill farmers to our vegetable growers, we all face different challenges.
“Yet, as an industry, we are interdependent on each other and in many ways, this is our greatest strength. Despite economic pressures, we continue to produce food and that will never go out of fashion.
“Finally, I wish you all a prosperous and healthy New Year from myself and the entire UFU team, and please remember to stay safe when out and about on farms.”
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