IFJ responds to UFU criticism:

Regarding an article printed on page six of last weeks’ edition dated 19 December 2020 headlined: “Wean farmers off subsidy, says UFU president”, we are disappointed that the UFU has chosen to infer that we did not properly report the comments made by Victor Chestnutt.

On Friday afternoon, the union put out a statement on social media, and an email to members, which stated that the comments “did not read correctly in the IFJ article as they were presented in the wrong context”.

The comments were made on an AgriSearch webinar last Monday night, attended by over 300 people from across the UK, and available for anyone to view on from the AgriSearch website (www.agrisearch.org).

During over eight minutes of contribution from Victor Chestnutt, he specifically states that NI farmers should be weaned off subsidy. He was then asked why more beef and sheep farmers do not benchmark their businesses or use performance-recording figures, to which he made the comment, accurately reported by us, about his livestock committees being obsessed with payments.

It has also been drawn to our attention that Mr Chestnutt also criticised the IFJ at a webinar for Co Down members on Thursday night, when he said that we had lifted his quote out of context.

We reject this entirely, and in an era where independent journalism is under threat from those who brand something they don’t like as “fake news”, we cannot let this matter go without a response.

It is up to Mr Chestnutt to justify and clarify his comments to his membership. The statements he made were unambiguous, and the article in the Irish Farmers Journal was a fair and accurate account of what was said. To suggest otherwise is disingenuous.

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