There was no denying that the future of the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs (NFYFC) was one its members wanted to keep tight hold of, but the battle over its proposed levy increase was not a quiet one.
The Federation is forecast to face annual deficits in excess of £300,000 from 2020, and although Young Farmers said they saw value in the organisation, some described the proposed 50 per cent levy increase of £8.96 per member to help curb the shortfall as ‘utter madness’.
Instead, Yorkshire Federation of YFCs won the vote with an amendment that the national subscription from September 1 2019 to August 31 2020 be increased by 20 per cent, with a further 20 per cent to be applied on September 1 2020 and 2021, before again increasing with the Retail Price Index (RPI) for the following two years.
Yorkshire FYFC vice-chairman Stephen Jarmuz, who proposed the first of five amendments at the AGM at Stareton Hall, Stoneleigh Park on Sunday (May 12), said: “When NFYFC’s proposal is combined with a recent 13.5 per cent reduction in members of the last year, it equates to a true rise of about 70 per cent in levy in just one year, something that I believe will ruin grassroots young farmers.”
The Federation was also budgeting for an average of a 7.66 per cent rise over the following four years, he added.
“From looking at the budget in more detail I cannot help but feel that national is the equivalent of a sieve, haemorrhaging money from all angles,” Mr Jarmuz said. “That is a problem of national’s own making.
“YFC is essentially a product on sale to those eligible for membership. In what universe would any other business alienate their customers, continually degrade their own credibility to those customers, and then plan to increase the cost of that product by over 100 per cent in five years
“It is utter madness.”
Others however suggested that the Federation was ‘not here to make a profit’ and that its members should support a levy increase ‘because YFC means a lot more to us than any price we could put on it’.
James Poulton, Radnor YFC county chairman, who proposed a third amendment that there should be no increase in the national subscription but that ‘NFYFC should instead take steps to cut its costs’, outlined the example of a corporate funding scheme used by Future Farmers America to fund their training and activities.
While the sponsorship initiative would not work in exactly the same format, Mr Poulton said he would like to see NFYFC exploring the possibility of using a similar scheme to promote small businesses ‘that are sprouted from our own movement’.
He said: “I tested this theory last week when I rang a clothing supplier who is a former county official of Radnor YFC, and I asked him: If NFYFC employed a corporate funding scheme like this, would you be willing to get involved for nationwide advertisement for say, £500 a year?
“He snapped my hand off at the idea. I am just giving you this as a single example of how this organisation could be better utilised.
“Each county would only have to find four or five small member related businesses to input to NFYFC for nationwide promotion and we will half our deficit.”
Speaking after Yorkshire’s motion was passed, NFYFC chairwoman Katie Hall said the levy increase meant the federation could ‘plan the future knowing what the membership will pay’, but that it would mean that NFYFC would have to make further spending efficiencies to close its budget gap.