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Agri and Rural Affairs Chairman: A Word with SAYFC's Duncan Morrison

This year, Farmers Guardian is teaming up with the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs (SAYFC) as media partner for their annual agri affairs and rural conference. Danusia Osiowy speaks to this year’s chairman ahead of the event.

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FG teams up with SAYFC to host Agri and Rural Affairs conference #StartingInFarming

SAYFC Agri and rural affairs chairman Duncan Morrison, joined Inverurie in 2004 at the age of 14. Since then he has enjoyed various roles in SAYFC and feels particularly determined to help make a difference to the political agenda.

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What is your farming background?

I was brought up on 93ha (230-acre) family farm ran by my father and uncle near Inverurie, Aberdeenshire. We are a farm mainly focusing on suckler cows with Aberdeen-Angus progeny taken through to finishing.


What is your job now?

I now have my own separate business farming 91ha (226 acres) on a five-year short limited duration tenancy, with 63 suckler cows on a mainly grass-based system, producing weaned calves. I also have a small herd of pedigree Aberdeen-Angus cows.


Why did you join Young Farmers?

It sounded great fun and my brother and cousin were both in the club, although I didn’t know how much I could get from being a Young Farmer at the time.


When did you get involved with the agri affairs committee and why?

I got involved when the committee relaunched more than four years ago. The events being organised appealed to me and I wanted to learn and move forward in my career at the time and saw the committee as a chance to broaden my horizons.


What have your roles been in the committee?

I was elected as the representative for my district before becoming the north regional representative and more recently vice-chairman and chair.


How does the committee work across a YFC year?

We meet regularly, every couple of months. There tends to be at least two farm visits or meetings in each region per year although we have committee meetings in between. We also have our national conference in November which brings everyone together and is a great focal point for us.


How do you set your political agenda?

We are a group which gives members a chance to air their views to a wider audience so we have members sitting on various stakeholder groups and committees and we look to be consulted on issues which affect the rural youth.


What are the key areas you are focusing on and why?

Giving Young Farmers achieving the best start in farming is a key area we focus on, as farming is at the core of SAYFC.


With so much at stake with upcoming Brexit negotiations it’s important that we do our bit to represent the interests of young people. We cover other areas such as the environment, education and business skills, all of which are important to the wider industry.


What is the purpose of the annual agri affairs conference?

It is our main focal point of the year and brings members from all over the country to one place for a weekend where we visit farms and take a detailed look at their businesses. We also have great breakout sessions from industry professionals and businesses. It’s a great chance for members to learn new skills from the best in the business and meet like-minded individuals.


What do you with the information learned from the conference weekend going forwards?

As a committee we find it’s a good chance to gauge the feeling among the group on various issues and act upon it. We always look to gather feedback from the weekend so we can improve it each year. From a delegate’s perspective, we hope they will learn new information which they can take to their own businesses and careers to benefit them.


How important is the committee to the wider industry?

We feel the committee helps members bridge the gap between Young Farmers and organisations, such as the NFU. It can be useful for attracting new members and for retaining older ones; as members get older their priorities may shift towards a more business-focused approach.


It’s vitally important to the wider industry too as it gives rural youth a voice. We also help to provide practical and business skill training to members, making sure they are equipped to be the next generation of young people in agriculture.


What do you enjoy about being chairman?

I like to be able to give something back to the organisation which has given me so much. I’ve been involved in SAYFC for a long time and it’s rewarding to be able to help younger members experience the benefits it can bring.


As someone who is building up a new farming business, I have first-hand experience of some of the issues other young farmers experience so it’s great to be able to help.

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