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Annual Conference 2014

Event Details

  • Date: 28 Jan 2014
  • Venue: The Ruas Conference Centre Balmoral

Over 180 people attended the UGS annual conference wich was held on Tuesday 28th January 2014 at the RUAS Conference Centre, Balmoral. The UGS AGM preceded the conference and John Martin from Greyabbey was in stalled as the UGS President for 2014.

John’s farm enterprises include a 600 commercial ewe flock, a suckler cow to beef system, a cereal enterprise and about 40 acres of short rotation coppicedwillow, for sale as a renewable heat fuel.

In his presidential address, John Martin, informed the audience about his Nuffield Scholarship study in 2011 on the issue of succession within family farming businesses. He wanted to see how the transfer of assets and responsibility could be better handled in Northern Ireland. To view John’s talk please click here.

The first speaker was Richard Wright, BBC Agricultural Journalist and presenter of the popular BBC Radio Ulster Farmgate programme as well as an influential commentator on farming matters and the European Commission.

Richard updated the Society on the CAP reform.  He said CAP reform will bring many changes and we are still some way off knowing whether Northern Ireland will be treated as a single region or two region model for direct payments. However, he said that we now know that support must only go to active farmers. The definition is about the person taking the risk and the impact will be greater here in NI than elsewhere because of our reliance on conacre. Around one third  of land is farmed on  a conacre basis compared to the ROI where the figure is closer to 12%.  While the active farmer change will affect everyone the impact will be greatest fot those letting out their land.

The official decision of an active farmer is ” the person enjoying the decision making power, the benefits and the financial risks in relation to agriculural activity being carried out on the land for which an allocation is requested”. Only people who meet those criteria are eligible to hold entitlements and make a claim against them.  For this change to be implemented current entitlements need to be replaced with new entitlements from 2015 onwards.

Member states have to inform Brussels by the start of August how they plan to implement direct payments. I this does not happen ther will be an immediate move to a flat rate payment structure on 1st January 2015. For Northern Ireland the big question is what affect will this have on conacre land. Richard stated that if the land management structure here is to swing from conacre to longer term tenancies CAP reform alone will not deliver that.  CAp reform will encourage people to consider alternatives such as share farming.

Robert Craig explained how he expanded his home dairy enterprise from 40 cows to 350 cows and later expaned further by setting up a partnership on a 675 acre leased farm to milk another 550 cows on a New Zealand-style grazing system.

Robert’s presentation can be viewed here.

James Evans from Shropshire was the third speaker. James was the 2012 Farmers Weekly Beef farmer of the Year .   He has a family partnership and a contract farming agreement which has allowed him to farm 300 suckler cows plus followers; 1200 breeding ewes and 800 acres of arable crops. He explained the benefits of contract farming. Jame’s presentation can be viewed here.

The final speaker was Ben Roche who is the Teagasc Registrar of Dairy Partnerships at Moorepark. Ben outlioned three types of joint farm busioness arrangements operating in Ireland:- Farm Partnerships, Contract Rearing and Share farming. He went on to give examples of joint ventures in practice outlining the benefits to all involved.Ben’s presentation can be viewed here

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