‘Young people will be put off farming’

Roberta Simmons
Roberta Simmons

YFCU President Roberta Simmons has said she fears young people will be put off farming careers if the current crisis facing agriculture is not resolved.

The Rathfriland Young Farmers’ Club member attended the recent meeting of the Stormont Agriculture Committee, held to identify a way out of the crisis now impacting on agriculture in Northern Ireland.

Speaking in the wake of the event and the numerous protests held by farmers at locations across the province over recent days, she said: “Whilst talks with the ARD Committee at Stormont were primarily focused on the dairy industry, we as an organisation have members involved in so many different sectors of the industry that are all struggling with poor farm gate prices.

“We are of the view that all sectors need support at this very difficult and testing time.

“To this end the YFCU will travel to Brussels at the start of September to register our position as the decisions required are at this level rather than in the local Supermarket.”

Miss Simmons added: “We have been instrumental in encouraging young farmers to gain at least a level 2 qualification in agriculture and progress to become head of holding within their own family farm businesses.

“It is also extremely encouraging to see all agricultural courses at CAFRE and other campuses fully subscribed to by young people.

“But unless something is done to improve the sustainability of farming in the immediate and short term, our fears would be that young people will go out and look for employment elsewhere.”

“As can be seen clearly now, it is very often younger people who take the risk in developing farm businesses.

“They have invested accordingly and are now getting hit the hardest. There has to be some way of making sure we can help these people through what is a very, very difficult time. In addition, we need to ensure that a continuous stream of young talent is coming into the farming industry.

“No one will ever make massive profits from agriculture.

“Farmers are simply asking for prices that provide them with sufficient income to reinvest within their own businesses and provide a nation with food.

Miss Simmons explained that farmers are facing more and more problems as profit margins become squeezed by international influences.

“So it is important that their voice is heard,” she stressed.

“It is also important that farmers and rural dwellers can access information about their sector and the entitlements they can avail of through DARD.

“To this end are currently working with Department Officials on the development of the Business Investment Scheme and other measures, which will impact on young farmers.”