Sunday, 3 March 2013

2013 NFU Conference

It is fair to say that the 2013 NFU Conference received a tremendous amount of attention with television, radio and newspapers being joined by a growing social media platform. On Twitter,  #NFU13 trended No 1 in both UK and worldwide, within 24 hours there were 14,781 tweets, 4,360 retweets and an audience reach of 1.8 million.

Phil Jarvis, Head of Farming for the GWCT's Allerton Project looks at his highlights.

The Food Chain: This was obviously going to be the big story, fresh on the hooves of 'horsegate'. Philip Clarke from Tesco certainly appeared assured, although 'the lions den' feeling began to creep in towards the later stages of questioning from delegates. In essence, Mr Clarke intentions are for a shorter meat supply chain and a stronger partnership with British farmers. One or two comments might lead to some cynicism, "100% British chicken - wherever possible"; not particularly committed on UK/Welsh lamb; when asked if Tesco might share their 24p/litre margin on milk " he responded negatively by saying "thats commerce". The new dawn in the food chain might be a bit premature, but Mr Clarke did express "that the hand of partnership was sincere".

Owen Paterson commented on the food labelling issue by saying 'the full force of the law' should be felt by anyone who had committed fraud. We shall see. He also said farmers should be able to use all the tools in the box to produce food more efficiently, including GM.

One area I fail to comprehend is how, when a recent EU Directive banned sow stall production, is it possible to still import and sell such pork through our retail outlets . What is the point of directives if they are not policed!

TB: On Wednesday, Owen Paterson confirmed the badger cull will go ahead later this year in the pilot areas. On Thursday, the conference hall got quite lively when Huw Irranca-Davies, Shadow Food and Farming Minister, said he was against the cull. Adam Quinney, NFU Vice President, handled the situation well asking for polite and constructive debate, but delegates and Mr Irranca-Davies will have to 'agree to disagree'.

CAP Reform: NFU President stressed the need for a level playing field for English farmers, both within the United Kingdom and Europe. Comments on greening, modulation and directing further funds into Pillar 2 drew a later response from the RSPB's Martin Harper .

Red Tape; This did get a brief airing outside the main conference arena. Although I have yet to read the Macdonald Task Force 'one year on report' and DEFRA's response and action plan. I feel there are too many areas of contention and any real impact seems a long way off.

Break Out Sessions; The conference provided a great  opportunity for updates in the main agricultural and developing sectors. I took in combinable crops, renewables and the growing use of social media.

BF&G Conference Summary; I have to tip my hat to the team who produced this 24 page summary within 24 hours. It is definitely worth investing an hour to read through.

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