The first meeting of the Next Generation Development Forum was held by Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), supported by the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU).

Barclay Bell, UFU President, said that he is impressed by the calibre of the group and has high hopes for what it will achieve.

“We have brought together 24 farmers, all under the age of 40, who are some of the most innovative in the industry,” he said.

Our aim is to help develop their leadership, communication, and business skills, while encouraging them to become more involved in the union’s activities.

At the first meeting of the forum, the group heard of the success of a similar forum run by the NFU Cymru (Wales).

“This format has proven successful in other UK regions and we want to replicate it here. The focus of the forum will be driven by its members but we expect there will be a mixture of both business and practical sessions,” Bell said.

The group complements our existing policy committee structure and will help to shape the UFU for future generations.

The forum is viewed as a tool to help identify future leaders, both for the organisation and industry.

“These young people are the future of our industry. We are facing uncertain times ahead and our industry needs capable young leaders. We see this as an important investment for the industry’s future,” Bell said.

Appointment to the forum is for an initial two-year period. There is a geographical representation from across the six counties, with men and women representing a range of farm types.

The YFCU has previously given its backing to the forum. Speaking at the launch of the forum application process back in February – prior to the selection of the forum members – YFCU president at the time, Roberta Simmons, commented on the project.

“I was delighted to launch the Next Generation Development Forum, with the UFU at our recent ‘Inspire’ agricultural conference,” she said.

In both organisations, we want to encourage farmers under the age of 40 to become more involved in shaping policy.

“We see this forum as an opportunity for young people to learn more about how the industry works and the importance of effective representation and negotiation.”