Mr Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assembly member and Chairman of the Stormont Employment and Learning Committee, has called on the entire community to rally behind the constituency’s farming industry by attending the forthcoming annual agricultural shows in Ballymena and Ballymoney.
Assemblyman Swann, who is also North Antrim UUP Association Chairman and Party Chief Whip, is a Past President of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster and Past Chairman of the influential Rural Youth Europe organisation.
Mr Swann’s predecessor as North Antrim MLA, the Rev Dr Robert Coulter MBE, served as President of the Ballymena Show for three years. Mr Swann issued his rallying call to the community after he visited the highly successful and very busy UUP stand at the prestigious Balmoral Show, near Lisburn.
Assemblyman Swann said: “I call on the North Antrim community to rally behind the constituency’s hard-pressed farming sector by supporting the forthcoming Ballymena and Ballymoney agricultural shows.
“For the past number of years, our agricultural sector in the Province has taken a financial battering from the effects of the BSE crisis, Foot and Mouth Disease, and ever-challenging regulations from the European Parliament.
“These events have placed numerous burdens on our agricultural sector in North Antrim with many farmers facing severe financial hardships.
“However, there is one way in which everyone in the constituency can rally behind our farming families and that is by making a point of attending the two big agricultural shows at Ballymena and Ballymoney.
“With an ever-growing list of restrictions being imposed on farmers as a result of BSE, FMD and European red tape, is it any wonder that our agricultural sector has the perception that it is the forgotten industry in terms of public support?
“Now the community has a golden opportunity to clearly demonstrate to the farming sector that it has the full backing of the Ulster public, especially in North Antrim .
“Both these traditional annual shows in Ballymena and Ballymoney have built impressive reputations as being highly enjoyable events for all the family.
“So I publicly encourage as many families as possible to give their open support to the farmers by visiting the shows and making 2014’s attendances among the best ever in the history of these two agricultural events.
“It is doubly important that the community attend these shows to send a blunt message to those planning to launch lignite mining in our constituency.
“Research has shown that at least 80 farms will be wiped out in the North Antrim area if these proposals become a reality. That will effectively sound the death knell of the agricultural industry in our constituency.
“A high attendance at these two premier agricultural shows will send a stark message to the lignite mining company that their vast mining proposals are neither needed or wanted in North Antrim,” said Assemblyman Swann.