New UFU president: Let’s make common sense common again

There was an element of bravado at the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) AGM today (July 25) as newly-elected president Victor Chestnutt set out his theme for his term – ‘Make common sense common again’.

In case you were in any doubt that there was any influence of Trump to his acceptance speech, Chestnutt quipped: “Let’s make farming great again!”

Members honked their horns in appreciation after their new president told them: “The theme I have picked for my term is ‘Make common sense common again’. Over my four years as deputy [president], the scarceness of common sense really has struck me…”

“There should be no room left for those who just want to collect subsidies and just coast along,” Chestnutt said.

“I am beginning to think normality doesn’t follow me. As we go forward, these are exciting times but fasten your seatbelts as we about to experience turbulence, and we are in for a bumpy ride. But I have no doubt farming will survive and thrive.”

Also Read: Live updates: UFU ‘drive-in’ AGM kicks off at Balmoral Park today

“Thank you for being essential workers,” Chestnutt told members. “Northern Ireland has 24,000 farmers – many part-time – and yet, through family farming systems, we produce enough food to feed 10 million, creating 100,000 industry jobs in Northern Ireland. We truly have much to be proud of.

I am positive about the future as the need for food continues to grow. There are 230,000 more mouths in the world to feed every day – we do truly perform an essential task. Let no one tell you farming is a sunset industry.

“I do not underestimate the responsibility and importance of decisions that are coming to a head as we face a new dawn. But with Brexit, the new agricultural policy, climate change, ammonia, North-South protocols, East-West protocols, along with Covid-19, the inbox is surely bursting at the seams.

“We must arrive in a place where the vast majority of our income is coming from the marketplace as I fear Government support will be very hard to secure due to the cost of the coronavirus.”

Also Read: New deputy president tells members 'we're facing a wartime food challenge'

Chestnutt urged farmers to “tell their story”.

What society is looking for is authenticity; they want to know about the farmer who gets up at 4:30am with snow on the ground to do the milking, or lamb the sheep, calf the cow, put food on the table. We need the government to lead by example securing local food, supporting home industry.

“We need the foodservice sector to support us as in the same way as the majority of the retail sector does.”

Chesnutt also called for a new approach to tackling TB, and for a “change of attitude” over agricultural planning delays related to ammonia.

“I would like to publicly invite the minister and the chair on to our mosses, where they can hear first-hand from the locals that the condition of these mosses hasn’t changed over the last 40 years. Always ask the man on the ground and reach common sense,” he said.

“Livestock-emitted methane goes into the atmosphere and within 10 years it is broken down. If we stabilise the number of livestock in the world that doesn’t increase climate change. It doesn’t warm the planet; it actually cools the planet. Covid-19 has taught us about the essentials, and sometimes the production of food carries with it essential annual emissions.”

Concluding, Chestnutt added that he hoped to run around Women in Agriculture conference and also reminded members to keep safety in mind when working on their farms.