ULSTER Farmers’ Union Pre-
sident David Brown said
it was a privilege to welcome over 240 guests to the annual dinner at the Glenavon House Hotel, Cookstown, on the evening of March 31.
In addition to the many members, industry representatives and North-
ern Ireland government officials, notable attendees included guest speakers Sir Robert Goodwill, MP, and National Farmers’ Union (NFU) President Minette Batters.
“The annual dinner is a key event in our calendar and one that everyone looks forward to. It’s a celebration of NI agriculture and enables our UFU members to take time out from the family farm for an evening of entertainment.
“It also enables us to reflect on the year gone by. We recognise all the challenges that our members endured and the successes, along-
side the dedication and commitment of everyone in the industry who we work with to build a more sustainable, resilient and profitable agri-food industry.
“Climate change, TB, energy prices and production costs are still major issues facing agriculture. However, the need for locally produced, high-quality food is more vital now than ever. In November, the United Nations estimated that the world’s population passed eight billion people.
“That works out as an additional 200,000 people on the planet, all in need of food fuel and fibre – every, single day. We as farmers have an opportunity, and a duty, to get the best out of our maritime climate, while also pioneering a sustainable approach to farming, tackling global warming and preserving the land for future generations so they can continue as food producers.
“The Windsor Framework ann-ounced in February was a critical development for NI. It’s extremely positive that progress has now been made on some of the issues that required legislative changes, issues that have been impacting agriculture. While some issues do remain, we’re confident that through improved engagement and constructive discussions, solutions can be found.”
Addressing the dinner, Sir Robert said: “Being a regular visitor to NI, I know how good the quality and variety of food produced here is.
“As a farmer myself, I understand the challenges being faced by our industry as input prices have soared and new post-CAP support mechanisms are introduced.
“Brexit does present many opp-ortunities for trading our produce around the world.
“However, here in NI, it isn’t always apparent that we yet have the promised best of both worlds with one foot in Great Britain and the other in the European Union single market.
“The Windsor Framework certainly solves some of our problems but there are still outstanding issues that need to be resolved on things like livestock movement. What would certainly help would be the restoration of the administration at Stormont to deliver solutions for the logjam of problems we face.”
Following the addresses, the prestigious Belfast Telegraph (BT) Cup for outstanding agricultural achievement was awarded to Billy Martin, OBE FRAgs.
Mr Brown continued: “I’m de-lighted to award Billy Martin OBE FRAgs with the BT Cup. For over 65 years he has represented the interests of NI farmers at home and abroad, and held many positions in agriculture working to better our local agri-food industry.
“During his time as UFU President (1984-1986) he was pivotal in helping to secure weather aid following 1985 – the wettest season on record at that time.
“As RUAS President (2019-2022), he had the difficult job of leading the organisation through the pan-demic. Covid-19 halted all agri shows, creating financial pressure. However, under the leadership of Mr Martin, the Balmoral and local shows which are vital to rural communities and farm families got back up and running again.
“Understanding how vital our young people are to the future of farming, Billy has always done what he can to aid the next generation, helping them to establish a career in the industry. He has provided much needed training opportunities for Greenmount students and, more recently, vet students.
“There is no doubt that Billy has made a massive contribution to agriculture, and we continue to reap the benefits of his efforts. He remains an active member of the UFU, attending local group and council meetings. He is a pivotal figure held in great respect by everyone in the industry.”
The UFU also presented two other awards on the night.
The Mary Wilson Trophy for best overall UFU group performance in 2022 was presented to the Mid Tyrone Group. This award recognises the group’s outstanding performance in membership re-cruitment, securing subscription income, and its successful delivery of group meetings and social events throughout the year.
The Cuthbert Trophy was award-ed to Ballyclare for retaining the highest percentage of its members in 2022.
The dedication and commitment shown by the group managers and their staff over the year have enabled them to achieve a retention rate of 97 per cent.
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