New Year message from UFU President Harry Sinclair

Thursday, 2 January, 2014

As we say goodbye to 2013, UFU President Harry Sinclair has taken some time to reflect on the challenges and achievements of the past year as well as looking ahead to what’s in store for 2014.

Harry Sinclair said; “One of the biggest challenges that faced many farmers this year was the unpredictable weather that we experienced in early 2013. The wet weather kept many livestock indoors for far longer than many had anticipated and slurry stores and fodder reserves were pushed to their limits. Then we were hit hard with possibly the worst snow storm that Northern Ireland has experienced in 60 years which many farmers and rural dwellers bore the brunt of.  Thousands of sheep and hundreds of cattle perished a result of the severe weather however, the resilience of the farming community came to the fore as they rallied together to help and support one another during this very testing time. In addition, the government’s fodder drops, fodder transport and fallen stock schemes provided much needed support to many farm businesses.

“The good summer and mild autumn/winter weather has definitely helped to alleviate some of the damage caused by the snow crisis and for the most part we ended 2013 on a high.  Harvests have been good, fodder stores replenished, slurry spread and livestock out in many fields well into November. 

“Another issue that hit the headlines and angered farmers was the horsemeat scandal. This scandal laid bare the risks associated with an ever more complicated food supply chain and put the reputation of Northern Ireland’s red meat industry on the line. However, farmers were able to hold their head’s high as they have reared their animals to the highest EU standards.

“2013 was also a year for progress as the Agri-Food Strategy Board report was also officially launched. From this report the message is clear that there is only one supply chain and in order for Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry to be successful all partners in the supply chain must be profitable. With the report providing a range of suggestions for growing the agri-food industry it will take a tangible commitment from our Government, which we wait with anticipation to hear from, to see many of these suggestions implemented.

“We also witnessed history in 2013 as the reformed Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) was agreed by the EU Commission, EU Parliament and the EU Agriculture Council in June.  Since then progress has steadily been made with the UFU officially agreeing its position on how the new CAP should be implemented in Northern Ireland.  It is now up to Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill and her Department to implement the new CAP accordingly taking on board the views of farmers. 

“As we look ahead to 2014 The Northern Ireland Agri-Food industry is poised for growth. We are the only industry in Northern Ireland that has traded strongly during the recession and are a key contributor to the local economy. CAP implementation will remain high on the agenda. It is vital that we get this right for farmers; keeping it as simple as possible while minimising red tape. This will be our priority. Ensuring that the Agri-Food Strategy Board’s plans to grow our industry are kept on track and that it stays true to the message of a single supply chain will also be at the top of our agenda especially producer profitability which remains key for us. 

“Finally, on behalf of the Ulster Farmers’ Union I would like to wish everyone a very peaceful and prosperous New Year and I look forward to working with all of our members as we enter into 2014.”