Pershore and Upton Branch of NFU have once again held a very successful conference, this year offering the panel to give us their ideas on what they would like to achieve if they were in charge of British agriculture. The panellists comprised of NFU vice president, Guy Smith, 2015 Three Counties young agricultural entrepreneur Joe Evans and Past Chairman of the Oxford Farming conference, Mike Gooding.
There was a huge amount of optimism in the room with Mike suggesting the next twenty years are going to be the best time to be a farmer with the prospect of feeding a population of 9.5 billion the role of food manufacturer is going to become more important than ever. His aims would be to create an environment in which individuals can succeed through the development of best practice and to ensure all farms are operating to the same standard creating a level trading field for all food producers.
Joe Evans continued the personal theme with his aim to bring people closer to farming. Joe practices what he preaches with his enterprises at the Whitbourne Estate including Green Cow Kitchens and Longlands Riding for the Disabled. Joe was concerned that a lack of knowledge from all consumers has led to a lack of appreciation of the value of food and this understanding should be a national matter as farming matters to everyone as it is fuel for life. Joe continued ‘Not only does it meet our day to day requirements for food and energy but farming also adds to the national balance sheet’. Joe’s three initiatives were to introduce farming and food production as part of the national curriculum, to provide food as welfare not just money to the poorest in society and to invest in research and development to have the brightest and best in the country seeking to develop British agriculture.
Finally, Guy Smith, took a more direct approach to get action from those with influence. Guy indicated he would
- Encourage Mark Grimshaw, Chief Executive of the RPA, to get last year’s BPS payments out and make sure the system for 2016 is working or has sufficient backups.
- Point out to Chair of Natural England Andrew Searle, that the current generation of farmers are conservationists and the latest suite of environmental schemes does not fit the UK agricultural system
- Ask Liz Truss to work with her colleagues in education to make room for agricultural in the education system – not instead of the core studies but to work with them. This was a timely mention with Guy as the NFU are due to launch a ‘Why Farming matters’ teacher’s pack making life easier for Key stage 2 teachers by giving them the correct resources – please see link for details Why Farming Matters .
Guy’s final aim was to reduce the import/export gap of food in the UK to allow the industry to grow. He accepted this was a hard task and would require many of the aims set out by the panellists to achieve including education , high quality produce, best farming techniques and staying ahead of the game with agricultural engineering.
The following questions session raised some lively debate around the need for payments for farmers and the amount of legislation and restrictions that farmers operate within, however all the panellists wholeheartedly agreed that UK agriculture is in a great position offering great produce. To move British agricultureforward into the next generation will require the best minds in the country to educate consumers , create new opportunities for British produce and reduce that all important import export gap.
The evening was attended by well over 100 local farmers who enjoyed the thought provoking discussion which continued in a lively fashion in the reception that followed. The event as ever was organised by Ray Foster-Morrison and the team at NFU Pershore and sponsored by Carver Knowles, Crowthers and ShakespeareMartineau.