After what the president described as “the best day’s work in its history,” the Ulster Farmers’ Union has settled the nagging problem of membership subscription which has bedevilled the organisation for much of its 50-year history.
On Friday the UFU Executive Committee gave 100 per cent support to the recommendation from a joint meeting of the President’s and Organisation Committees that from January 1 next the subscription rate should range from £2 for 25-acre holdings to £30 for 225 acres plus.
At present the rate is one shilling per arable acre with a minimum of £1.
Speaking at a Press conference following the Executive Committee meeting the president, Mr Jimmy Jordan, declared: “The union’s financial position has become desperate. The new rates – calling in the directors and going into voluntary liquidation was the only alternative – should not be a hardship on anyone and represent good value for money.”
Emphasising the 100 per cent unanimous vote by the Executive, Mr Jordan said that such solidarity from every part of the country convinced him that members would wholeheartedly approve the steps taken.
“About 50 per cent of the union income is presently coming in £1 notes which is absolutely ridiculous,” Mr Jordan added.
“Just as the farmers need the help of the union so the union needs the help of the farmers.”
The present income of between £32,000 and £33,000 fell far short of the £60,000 required.
“We have been losing about £4,000 a year,” the president continued,” and constant withdrawals from reserves simply cannot be allowed to go on.”
Referring to the cheese-paring which the union has to do in present circumstances, the general secretary Mr W H Gilliland said that natural development had to be curbed through financial considerations and this “gave an altogether wrong image of what the UFU role ought to be”.
Mr Gilliland declared: “Sometimes we have been able to send only one delegate to a conference when there should have been two and on other occasions we have been unable to afford representation at all.”
Pointing to the NFU in England, Mr Gilliland added that rates there were £5 plus 1s 9d per arable acre.
“We are still working on the cheap compared with those figures,” he commented.
Chairman of the Organisation Committee, junior deputy president Mr W Hamill, said his committee had examined the financial position from “top to bottom” over several months.
“My only regret is that nobody in the past seems to have had the courage to carry out a very necessary piece of reform,” Mr Hamill stated.
It was agreed that the new rates system would be “stringently enforced” with the onus falling on Group secretaries to see to it that subscriptions were not allowed to lag.
Mr Jordan warned: “If a person refuses to pay what is a reasonable demand he would just have to forfeit his membership with all the advantages which that entailed.
“It is not our intention to drive anyone away. We want a better union and I am confident that is what we’ll get,” the president added.