ROBIN Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assembly member, has called for additional training courses to enable under 18’s to drive farm tractors legally and safely.
He said while the tractor remained “a central piece of machinery in the smooth running of the modern farm,” it was of vital importance the new generation of farmer had the “confidence, responsibility and professionalism to use them properly”.
Mr Swann added: “In recent years, the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) introduced a highly successful tractor training course, which to date has trained hundreds of young people in the safe use of tractors.
“The Ulster agricultural sector needs more such courses to not just train young tractor drivers, but also to make our farms even more safer working environments.
“In this respect, I would urge both CAFRE as well as any future Stormont Farming Minister to implement a fresh programme of these courses over the school holidays, as evening classes, or at weekends so more people can have an opportunity to participate in this training, thereby improving farm safety.
“I would especially congratulate CAFRE on the excellent work it has achieved to date with this tractor training initiative.
“The provision of such courses will not only train the next generation of competent tractor users, but may also act as an encouragement for more of our Ulster young people to remain in the agricultural sector.
“Trained tractor drivers will also hopefully have fewer accidents involving either themselves or farm property. This will have the added benefit of not only improving the record of farm safety, but will also reduce the amount of damage to costly agricultural equipment or days off work through accidents.
“There is no doubting the provision of a new round of tractor training courses will also contribute to improved work rates, and competence will result in more confidence in general agricultural safety standards,” said Assemblyman Swann.
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