Dr. Christine Kennedy wins BT cup at UFU annual dinner 2022

Saturday, 26 March, 2022

Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) president Victor Chestnutt said he was thrilled to welcome over 250 guests to the annual dinner at the La Mon Hotel on evening of 25 March. In addition to the many members, industry and Northern Ireland (NI) government officials, notable attendees included the DAERA Minister, the NI Minister of State RT Hon Conor Burns MP, United States Department of Agriculture representatives, MLAs, presidential team representatives from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and the Irish Farmers’ Association.

“After not being able to host our UFU annual dinner due to COVID-19 the past two years, it was a great honour to be able to get everyone together again. The annual dinner is a key event in our calendar, providing an opportunity for our UFU members to step away from the family farm for an evening of entertainment, celebrating the very best of NI agriculture as well as showing huge appreciation for the continued effort of everyone in the industry who we work with - partners, policy makers and politicians. The significant impact of working together as an industry was truly demonstrated when our joint lobbying efforts ensured a climate change legislation that delivers for everyone in NI was passed in early March and is now set to become law.

“Alongside COVID-19 and climate change legislation, we have faced numerous other issues over the past couple of years including labour shortages, bovine TB, the NI Protocol, UK trade deals and soaring input costs that have been significantly exacerbated by the war in Ukraine threatening food supplies globally. Yet, our farmers continue to rise to every challenge and we stand ready to do all we can to ensure the public continues to have access to high-quality, affordable, climate-friendly food when they need it.

“There has also been opportunities and positive developments along the way too. Including the once in a generation opportunity to redefine agriculture policies and support through the Future Agriculture Policy, the TB consultation to develop a strategy to eradicate the disease once and for all, and the launch of my chosen charity for my presidential term, Life Beyond. It provides much-needed support for our farming families in NI who have lost a loved one and was set up by Rural Support in partnership with Embrace FARM,” said Mr Chestnutt. 

Addressing the dinner DAERA Minister Edwin Poots said, “The agriculture industry has dealt with many significant challenges over recent times but the last two years in particular have brought challenges hitherto unknown. Despite that you have shown incredible determination and resilience whilst maintaining excellent standards, embracing new opportunities. You have kept our local supply lines secure with food moving off-farm and onto our shelves.

“Your hard work and dedication to producing high-quality, local food is unparalleled, and I am extremely grateful. During COVID-19 you have used the support funds DAERA provided to save jobs, communities and indeed to keep industries afloat. I commend you all, including the UFU – you are all vital to the farming community which is the backbone of rural life and the economy.

“It has been a very busy few years as DAERA Minister culminating this week in the announcement of several major policies and strategies which will strengthen the industry for generations to come. They also present the opportunity for a fresh relationship between agriculture and the environment with our new Future Agricultural Policy, Environmental Strategy and Climate Change Bill.

“It has been a privilege to be the Agricultural Minister representing the sector and your excellent products and people.”

Following the addresses, the prestigious Belfast Telegraph (BT) Cup for outstanding agricultural achievement was awarded to Dr. Christine Kennedy OBE, BSc, D. Phill and FRAgS.

Mr Chestnutt continued, “It’s a great privilege to award Dr. Christine Kennedy, who was a school colleague of mine, with the BT Cup. Her experience and knowledge of the NI agri-food industry is nothing short of exceptional and she has been a critical figure in helping to drive, shape and sustain the effectiveness of the industry for several years.

“Holding the role of partner on her family’s dairy and beef farm for nearly 30 years, Dr. Kennedy is well aware of the challenges farmers face and how they uphold world leading animal health and environmental standards to produce high-quality food consumers can trust. She has spent a lifetime striving to ensure that the NI agri-food industry showcases itself in the best possible light, highlighting all these attributes to consumers, retailers and government at home and abroad, leading on to her being awarded with an OBE in 2006.

“Dr. Kennedy is an inspiration to women within the industry and the younger generations. Our agri-food industry has benefited greatly from her dedication and passion for agriculture.”

The UFU also presented two other awards on the night. The Mary Wilson Trophy for best overall UFU group performance in 2021 was presented to the South Tyrone Group. This award recognises the Group’s outstanding performance in membership recruitment, securing subscription income, and their successful delivery of group meetings and social events throughout the year.

The Cuthbert Trophy was awarded to the Ards Group for retaining the highest percentage of their members in 2021. The dedication and commitment shown by the group managers and their staff over the years have enabled them to achieve a retention rate of over 97 percent.