Coming together for the first time in four years, the NFU Four Nations Next Generation Conference, held jointly with NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU), gave young UK farmers the chance to have their say and share ideas about the future of farming, food and energy security, and reaching net zero.
Jessica Williams, from the NFU Cymru Next Generation Group, said of the conference: “I have already been able to take advantage of so many fantastic opportunities being a part of the NFU Cymru Next Generation Group and meeting up with the next generation forums from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland has been a fantastic experience.
“It has been really inspiring to meet so many other vibrant people working in agriculture who are equally as passionate about the future of sustainable food production, the environment and the well-being of our rural communities. While it is clear that there are challenges on the horizon, we should never forget that farming delivers so much for people and communities. I firmly believe that our sector is in safe hands with so many engaged and dedicated farmers from all corners of the UK all striving towards the same shared goals.”
NFU Scotland’s Next Generation chair Matthew Steel, an arable and poultry farmer from Forfar, said: “It was inspiring to hear from our counterparts. There was a real sense of innovation and determination when we were considering how and what support we need, as the future of farming, so that we can continue to deliver high quality food production but also work towards the ambitious climate and nature targets.
“From NFU Scotland Next Generation’s perspective, it was great to be able to share the options we have in Scotland on how to get a foothold in the sector. That said, this conference also showed that there is a lot we can learn from the fellow unions on ideas for future support for new entrants to ensure they are the life blood of our sector in the years to come.”
UFU policy manager James McCluggage added: “The NFU Next Generation Conference was a great event and an excellent opportunity to catch up with our UK Next Gen colleagues. The positivity amongst the delegates towards the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead provides great optimism for the future of UK farming. No matter what comes their way, they are eager to find solutions that support the development of a sustainable and profitable agriculture industry that delivers for the environment and consumers.
“It’s always hugely beneficial to hear first-hand what is going on in other regions within the UK. Face-to-face encounters are a great way to gain new ideas and opinions on how we do things in Northern Ireland. In particular, it was fascinating to learn of the progression being made within each region in regard to their own respective agriculture policies, and how interested the other regions are with the direction of travel of Northern Ireland’s future agriculture policy.”