County Fermanagh livestock farmer David Brown, was voted in as president for two years and William Irvine was re-elected as deputy president for a second term. He will be joined by newly elected deputy president John McLenaghan from County Derry.
The new president thanked the UFU membership for their ongoing support and dedication to producing high-quality food for consumers during the most difficult of times. He acknowledged his close relationship with outgoing president Victor Chestnutt and deputy president William Irvine, as well as thanking Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA for his participation in the AGM.
Addressing council members at the AGM Mr Brown reinstated the importance of ‘the land first’ when it comes to food production. He said: “As farmers we understand you can produce more cattle, sheep, pigs or poultry, but the one finite resource that there is no more of is land. Throughout Europe an area one quarter of the size of Northern Ireland is taken for roads, buildings and infrastructure every year. That is without giving any consideration to the ‘land use land change’ measures contained within the climate committee proposals. If all of these are implemented to combat climate change it will put inevitable pressure on our farmland and food production capacity.
“In our intensive sectors we depend on land to produce the grain, for free range or the ability to return the manures that increase our productivity. You can do nothing better than invest in your land and in your soils. It will repay you many times over in the food it produces.
“Food is much more than just feeding your body. It’s social, its used in religious festivals such as Ramadan which our sheep farmers will be aware of. However, for many, their knowledge of food ends at the supermarket shelf or bottom of the menu. As chair of Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend for the past four years, we’ve been trying to make that farm to Fork connection, re-establishing a strong relationship between consumers and farmers in the process.”
Mr Brown stressed the importance of talking publicly about how food production delivers for the environment as well as consumers, and went on to highlight the impact of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine on food security.
“The war in Ukraine has led to the European Union revaluating its farm to fork strategy and green agenda. The UK on the other hand has stuck rigidly to the approach that markets will adjust, and so far, has resisted accepting there is any challenge to food security. Since the 1980’s, the UK’s self-sufficiency has reduced from almost 80 percent to now, 60 percent. In these unprecedented times, we need to be doing all we can to protect our local food production while developing it appropriately.
“Our industry faces huge change as our future agriculture policy is rolled out in the coming years. Developing policy means you need consensus and we as farmers, are not the easiest to find consensus with. As different sectors and individual independent farm businesses, we all have a view on what would work for us. There is however one basic principle, if it is not profitable, it is not sustainable, and our young people will run away from it.
“As president I will work tirelessly, following in the footsteps of those who have went before me, serving you our members by ‘promoting and supporting a vibrant and sustainable rural economy, where agriculture is secure and pivotal to its future’.”
Concluding his speech Mr Brown highlighted the necessity of policy development for Women in Agriculture following the AERA Committee’s survey Breaking the Glass Celling: Barrier for Women in the Agriculture Sector, and recognised the important work of Marie Curie which is his chosen charity.
Who are the new leadership team?
David Brown, UFU deputy president: David is a suckler beef and sheep farmer from Florencecourt, County Fermanagh. A past chair of Fermanagh Grassland Club, David remains passionate about grassland management. Within the UFU David previously represented the South West Group on the beef and lamb committee. During two years as county chair David represented farmer’s concerns throughout the extreme flooding of 2015/16 and the subsequent Rivers Agency review. Co-opted on to the UFU Management Board in 2016. Appointed to represent the red meat sector on the CAFRE College Advisory Group in 2017. David was first elected as UFU deputy president in 2018.
William Irvine, UFU deputy president: William is a dairy farmer from Mountnorris, Co Armagh, farming in partnership with his wife Ruth and son David. He has held numerous roles within the UFU including dairy committee chair, representing NI dairy farmers on the COPA Milk Working Group and the UK on the Milk Civil Dialogue Group. William represented Co. Armagh on the UFU management board prior to being elected deputy president in July 2020.
John McLenaghan, UFU deputy president: John from County Derry/Londonderry, has suckler beef, an egg enterprise, wind turbine and biogas plant. His partner is Lisa and they have three children. John’s UFU experience includes former group chair of North East Londonderry. He has either or has been a member of the poultry, rural enterprise, animal health and environment committees. He has served on the board and was previously chair of poultry and environment.