BALLYMONEY Borough Council has been ‘greatly alarmed’ at a proposal by the Department of Agriculture to axe all funding to the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster.
During a recent Full Council meeting, members agreed to write to the Minister to review her decision which ’could throw the future of local clubs into jeopardy’ including the borough’s valuable and very popular Ballymoney Show.
In her draft budget, Minister Michelle Gildernew proposed to chop the £75,000 it gives the YFCU annually as part of what she describes as ‘the cessation of some lower priority educational activities’.
The issue was raised by Ballymoney Mayor Bill Kennedy who proposed the motion: “I have an important matter which I wish to raise.
“I am greatly alarmed at a proposal by the Department of Agriculture to cut all funding to the Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster at the end of this financial year. It is a hard blow in these hard pressed economic times.
“Agriculture and the rural economy is very important in this rural Borough. We are heavily dependent on farm enterprises which provide full and part-time jobs.
“This organization supports a network of local clubs run by young people, with others in our community providing leadership roles on a voluntary basis. The young farmers movement has some 50 actives clubs in our Province. This structure serves the farming and rural community and makes a valuable contribution to economic, social and community life.
“Clubs such as Kilraughts and Finvoy in our area provide the opportunity for young people to learn new skills and they also contribute greatly to our rich cultural through drama and debating.
“I understand that the Young Farmers Clubs through its membership fees contribute to this provincial body but the support from central government is critical, this burden should not be shifted from central government to local level.
“I believe the Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster is an important element of the young farmers movement in Ulster. We must support our rural areas, support our young people and so support our future. I propose we write to the Agriculture Minister and call for her to review the proposal and to enter into full consultation with all the stakeholders on this important issue.”
Backing the call Cllr John Finlay thanked Cllr Kennedy for raising the ‘very important issue’ continuing: “The Young Farmers’ Clubs are the biggest rural organisation about and they do an excellent job.
“Their plays highly entertain the local community every year and they take youths off the streets and give them something to do.
“Our Ballymoney Show could not go on without the tremendous voluntary work of our local Young Farmers’ Clubs.”
In response Cllr Evelyne Robinson stated that the cut would only add to local farmers’ problems and agreed to raise the issue at another meeting aimed at discussing the plight of farmers provincewide.
Cllr James Simpson also explained: “Young Farmers’ Clubs rely heavily on funding and this only adds to the plight of local farmers. Such a decision could throw the future of local clubs into jeopardy.
“I believe farmers face enough problems by large supermarkets - it’s a real tragedy. It is a reality that large organisations are squeezing farmers to the bone and this is just another .”
Cllr Audrey Patterson concurred with all the comments adding: “It is unfair that this funding is being withdrawn.”
Concluding Cllr Kennedy said: “Young Farmers’ Clubs offer a social network to the youth of today and supply a huge voluntary effort amounting to a value of over half a million pounds in monetary terms.
“Their work is very important to numerous events in our town including the Ballymoney Show. And as a result of the cut these things could suffer greatly.”
Top members of Finvoy, Kilraughts and Moycraig YFCU also slammed the move and urged the Minister to reconsider her proposal. They also urged members of the public to write to the DARD and lobby their MLA’s before the consultation period ends this Wednesday (February 16).