UFU ‘drive-in’ AGM decision expected this week

Executive members of the Ulster Farmers’ Union are expected to make a decision over the next few days on whether the union’s 2020 annual general meeting (AGM) will proceed as a ‘drive-in’ event.

The plan would see the UFU transform the Eikon exhibition centre, the home of the Balmoral Show, into a drive-in voting centre.

It might seem far-fetched but the idea might just be the stroke of genius needed to ratify a new president, giving sole nominee Victor Chesnutt the mandate he needs to lead the industry through yet another challenging period.

A second vote will also take place to decide on the organisation’s new vice president. Three candidates are currently in the running for two positions:

  • Incumbent vice president David Brown (from Florencecourt, Co. Fermanagh);
  • Former Hill Farming Committee chairman Ian Buchanan (from Dungiven, Co. Londonderry); and
  • Former Dairy Committee chairman William Irvine (from Markethill, Co. Armagh).

AgriLand understands the proposal was one of five options considered, including the possibility of conducting the meeting over teleconferencing apps like Zoom.

However, it was decided that technological options may be hard to implement as the union represents members across a wide age range with varying access to broadband.

Postal voting is also understood to have been considered; however, this option would mean the AGM was not carried out in accordance with the union’s constitution, so was ruled out early on.

How will the AGM happen?

The UFU AGM would typically take place at Greenmount College, attended by around 150 people.

Those with voting rights include office bearers, council members, board members, chairmen and vice-chairs of the 17 policy committees and past presidents of the organisation.

Should the plans for the drive-in AGM get the go-ahead, officials hope to set a date towards the end of July.

Staff will set up large screens and speakers to allow incumbent president Ivor Ferguson to make his final address as president and the newly-elected president to lay out his plans for the next two years.

The logistics on how the vote will take place are yet to be decided. In England, the National Farmers’ Union uses keypads for members to select their choice. However, other options could include a much simpler slip of paper.

The proposal was formally put forward on Wednesday (May 27), with Executive Committee members to be given one week to respond.