Armagh dairy farmer, William Irvine, has been elected as the new president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) for a two year term.

Irvine will head up the UFU’s new leadership team which was unveiled yesterday (Wednesday, May 1) at its Annual General Meeting (AGM) which took place at CAFRE’s Loughry Campus in Co.Tyrone.

Irvine will be supported in his new role by John McLenaghan, who was re-elected as deputy president for a second term and newly elected deputy president Glenn Cuddy.

In his first address as president Irvine stressed the importance of the agriculture industry in Northern Ireland and the challenges that farmers have been up against because of recent weather conditions.

He also highlighted that TB remains a major issue and that the UFU wants to see the disease is “tackled in all hosts to achieve eradication”.

“The agri-food industry is a critical part of Northern Ireland and the UK, economically and socially. As farmers and growers, we now have two very important jobs. We must produce enough food to feed a growing population while playing our part in tackling climate change.

“The new future agriculture policy is currently being rolled out here in Northern Ireland and we continue to lobby to get much-needed sheep support in place. Investing and supporting our Northern Ireland farming industry, from arable and horticulture to livestock farming, translates into a prosperous future for all.

“Farmers cannot be sacrificed for other societal objectives. We are essential to both a healthy world and a healthy population,” Irvine warned.


His message was heard clearly by both Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Michelle O’Neill and deputy First Minister, Emma Little-Pengelly, who also both addressed UFU members before the election of the leadership team took place yesterday.

According to Irvine farmers will be waiting to see where politicians stand on support for local agriculture as the general election looms this year.

“The UFU has continually made the case that we need an increase in the UK, and particularly the Northern Irelnad budget for agriculture.

“We need unwavering commitment for local farming and food production from all UK parties. Food security must be a top priority for any government,” he added.

The new UFU president also warned that since 2017, farm planning applications have struggled to meet ammonia requirements and “over the last number of months, the goalposts have moved again”.

He said it was important to encourage “sustainable development” to help farm efficiencies but he was also highly critical of current regulations in Northern Ireland.

“Farmers are working to reduce ammonia and are eager to do more by developing their farm efficiently to produce sustainable high-quality food.

“It’s unacceptable that replacement buildings are treated like they were never there within the planning system under the ammonia protocol – this must change.

“It is critical that farmers are encouraged and supported to enhance their farm businesses by upgrading buildings, ultimately improving animal and bird welfare and environmental standards. The benefits will not only be significant for the environment, but for consumers, local communities and the wider Northern Ireland economy,” Irvine added.