FUNDING cuts which could cost the Young Farmer’s Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) £75,000 have been roundly condemned by a number of local politicans.
Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew proposed axing the annual grant to the YFCU to make savings to the department’s budget.
“In my draft budget, I have proposed the cessation of some lower priority educational activities,” said the Minister.
“This includes the provision of an annual grant £75,000 to the YFCU. When I announced my draft budget proposals last month, I made it clear that we will not have the resources to do everything that we would like to do in the 2011-15 period and that this would involve making hard decisions to ensure frontline services are protected.”
There are a number of YFCU groups throughout the district and local politicians, some of whom are members, have called on the minister to rethink her proposal.
South Down MLA John McCallister said he was outraged at the possibility the clubs could have their funding cut off completely.
“YFCU provide essential services to young people living and working in rural communities,” said Mr McCallister. “I can honestly say that my experiences with Young Farmers probably helped shaped my life into what it is today.
“I learned so much and took advantage of all the wonderful opportunities Young Farmers had on offer. To think that today’s young people could miss out on all this is heartbreaking.
“I appeal directly to the Minister to review this proposal because, if implemented, it would wield a serious blow to the farming industry which would have far reaching implications for the future of farming and the rural communities of Northern Ireland for years to come.”
Upper Bann Assembly candidate Jo-Anne Dobson also expressed her disappointment at the proposal and urged people to contact the Minister by tomorrow (Wednesday).
“I urge the public to visit the YFCU website – www.yfcu.org – where they can download a letter which can either be emailed or printed and posted to DARD.
“I have sent a copy on behalf of my family and urge the public to let their voices be heard on this matter.”
Upper Bann Assembly Member George Savage said there must be another way to establish her budget.
“I would appeal to the Minister and the Department of Agriculture to scrap this proposal immediately as the amount of money that is involved will not have a huge effect on her overall budget but will severely affect the future of the organisation and its activities,” said Mr Savage.
Sam Gardiner MLA said the funding cut could affect the future of farming in Northern Ireland.
“We need to encourage young people to go into farming and we need to ensure our national food security and to have a strong base for our very important agri-food industry,” said Mr Gardiner.
“Young Farmers clubs are an important way to encourage young people into farming and to help deliver these important objectives and it is shortsighted of the Minister to suggest cutting their funding.”
Details of the draft DARD budget are available at www.dardni.gov.uk.