A key attribute required by any Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) president is to be a good communicator, and it is a skill that new UFU President David Brown will bring to the role over the next two years.

While his most immediate concern will be how farmers are able to deal with unprecedented input costs, there are also plenty of big policy issues to be progressed.

On a bovine TB eradication strategy for NI, to get buy-in from farmers, it is vital that the proposed targeted cull of badgers in TB hotspot areas gets off the ground as soon as possible. The current DAERA plan is that farmers pay for the actual cull, so it will be necessary for some creative thinking around how this is done in a way that is fair and equitable.


There is also the pressure on industry to contribute to climate change targets. But there are so many confused messages around the issue given to farmers, a general need for more science to inform the facts, and an underlying anti-farming lobby that manipulates public concerns about climate change for their own ends.

The UFU has a key role to play in calling out any government policy that effectively asks farmers to pay for the greed of the fossil fuel industry. An NI land use strategy to be developed by DAERA in the next Assembly mandate will be crucial.

That strategy will also link to future agricultural policy, and while we know some of the headline changes, much of the detail around new schemes is still to be worked out. With a new system of support payments potentially starting in 2024, it is a period that coincides with David Brown’s presidential term. Decisions will have to be made that please some, and not others.

The new president also has to think about the future of his own organisation. A strong pool of candidates stood for election as his deputy presidents, including the first woman candidate, Mary Hunter. It is important that people from a diverse range of backgrounds are encouraged to come forward for UFU leadership positions.

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