CARMARTHENSHIRE sheep and beef farmer Ian Rickman has been elected as President of the Farmers’ Union of Wales at the Union’s Council meeting in Aberystwyth on Friday 30 June 2023. He takes over from Glyn Roberts, who served the Union for 8 years in the role.
Ian Rickman’s parents, Robert and Margaret Rickman, moved to Gurnos, Llangadog, Carmarthenshire in 1975; that was Ian’s first experience of farming and started a lifelong passion.
“They kept sheep and we also had a herd of Welsh Black suckler cows back in the day. I found that I really enjoyed farming and was about 13 years old at the time. I decided I wanted to have a career in agriculture so I went to the Welsh Agricultural college in Aberystwyth. I did a sandwich course there and in my middle year I went to work for Iori and Heulwen Evans, in Pendine who milked around 400 cows at the time,” explains Ian.
When he left college he went back to work for Iori as a herdsman for a couple of years, and then travelled to Australia and New Zealand for 9 months to experience farming in different parts of the world.
When his father’s health started to deteriorate in the late 1980s Ian came back home to Gurnos. Today he is in a share farming agreement with his business partner Sean Jeffreys; they keep sheep and rear Wagyu calves. Ian is married to Helen and they have three boys, Thomas, Sean and Rhys, who have all pursued other careers.
In the late 80s / early 90s Ian started going to FUW meetings in Carmarthenshire and recalls his early days with the FUW.
“I remember going to my first branch meeting in Llangadog all those years ago. Carmarthenshire has always been an FUW stronghold and Peter Davies was the county secretary when I joined the Union. I went to the local branch meetings and then started going to local county executive meetings. I became county chairman around 2010 and was also a delegate on the FUW Hill farming committee, serving as committee chairman for a time,” he recalls.
In 2017 Ian was elected as South Wales regional vice president and became Deputy President in 2019.
Speaking about his election to President of the Farmers’ Union of Wales he said: “I never envisioned being President of the FUW but am truly honoured to be elected into the role. I must thank Glyn Roberts for his dedicated service for the past 8 years. The boots I have to fill are huge and there can never be enough words to convey our debt and gratitude to Glyn for all he has done. I shall always be grateful for the support I have had from members locally in Carmarthenshire and throughout Wales.”
There are many challenges facing the industry and Ian is all too clear that issues such as the Sustainable Farming Scheme, the Agriculture Bill – which will affect the industry for generations to come, and funding for agriculture, which is essential for the family farms of Wales, and the NVZ regulations, are going to require the full attention of the Union.
“Funding for farming in Wales urgently needs clarity. At the moment we more or less know what we can expect until 2024 in terms of support for agriculture, but after that you fall off a cliff if you try to do any sort of cash flow or business planning. We realistically don’t know the details of how farm support is going to look going forward. A lot of my work in the immediate future is going to focus on getting clarity for our members on this,” said the newly elected FUW President.
Bovine TB is also an issue that is at the forefront of his mind. “It has been an issue for the previous generation and it will remain an issue for the next generation of farmers if nothing changes. We will work with the new chief vet and the Welsh Government to continue trying to find workable solutions to the issue.
“There should however be no misunderstanding – members are at the end of their tether and the ongoing TB situation is a huge concern to farmers here in Wales , which ultimately also puts our food security at risk.”
One ambition for the Union in his term as President is that Ian hopes to encourage more young members to join the FUW and encourage more members to take up roles as officials within the organisation, both locally and nationally.
“Succession in the FUW is just as important as it is on a farm. I’m passionate about the Union and the FUW is completely democratic and will remain completely democratic. It is run by members and we work from our grassroots based system. However, there are barriers to succession in the Union and I will work with the team to resolve those so that the Union can remain thriving and sustainable, ensuring that we have thriving, sustainable family farms here in Wales,” he added.