Thursday, 25 February 2016

#NFU16 Conference Highlights

NFU 2016 Conference gets underway.

In amongst all the serious and worrying challenges that are facing agriculture, there is room for a few alternative views and highlights from the 2016 NFU Conference. The first two places in my top ten were close but the Brexit was first past the post.

1. The lively 'Brexit' debate between MEP Dan Hannan and former MEP George Lyon combined exuberance, humour and sharp political debate which had Conference listening to every word. I'm sure George Lyon told conference to ignore 'patrotic jingoism' similar to that used by the Leave Campaign in last years Scottish Independence debate. However, two highlights came in responses from the floor, firstly about 'bank my business' and the second was from session chair Martin Haworth. When a member from Dorset commented that 'The Times was reporting the NFU swinging behind the 'stay in' campaign, and perhaps we should trust neither politicians or journalists' ...Martin turned to Dan Hannan and enquired if as a politician and journalist he might like to comment. Priceless

2. The 'wit and wisdom' award this year went to Dr David Hughes who wanted adjectives rather than nouns when describing the meat we buy. A lively and at times controversial presentation it was  nonetheless delivered with delightful humour.

3.The polished performer award went to Connor McVeigh who takes the title from last year's winner Mark Grimshaw. Coolness under pressure personified. However it would have been nice to hear some direct answers to questions. Would the Living Wage lead to higher prices in Macdonalds? The answer was there were efficiency to be had via the Beef Production Carbon Report..... aimed at the producer. No word on sharing through the food chain with carbon savings on transport to the restaurants or carbon saving in the restaurants themselves!!

4.Secretary of State, Elizabeth Truss repeated an earlier Oxford Conference statements about reducing bureaucracy, with DEFRA agencies working towards shared and common goals. Let's hope they are the same ones that the industry has and both consultation and collaboration will be paramount to achieve a successful outcome. Her comments on TB were also well received.

5. Mark Berriford-Smith's comments on 'forecasters predicting seven of the last two recession' was  well received in the conference hall.

6. A masterstroke engaging the Campaign For The Farmed Environment as a conference sponsor, showing that farmers and their representative do care about the environment.  Lets hope we get some common goals and sensible outcomes from our current agri-environment deliberations.

7. Returning to a more light hearted moment, the 'Pointless' game conducted at dinner between Minette Batters and Guy Smith once again showed that in amongst the serious business of conference, humour and mirth should never be forgotten.

8. In the break out session of cropping and environment, the issues were interwoven in both. Environmental responsibility was never far away at the crops session and cropping profitability was pronounced at the environment meeting. Some comments that registered about environmental labelling were' Green is the normal now' and 'The role of Government is like a tide that floats all boats'. Whilst it was great to see pioneers using competition to drive business efficiencies the whole industry needs some mechanisms to help push forward it's environmental credentials.

Plenty of support for the environment and Crops break out session.
(Pictures courtesy of NFU On-Line)

9. Once again the Conference organisation was second to none, no complaints from this delegate. How you managed to know that I would step on the 4.22pm train 20 seconds before it was due to leave is beyond me. Keep up the great work. The conference summary report is out already and will give you the real and considered sequence of events and is essential reading. For those into networking it is Networking Heaven! The cross section of industry representatives is testament to the conference's importance to the agricultural industry.

10. The leadership contest turned out to be a vote for continuity and with many challenges ahead I'm sure this team will work tirelessly for the benefit of its members. If anyone asks you what the NFU does, get a copy of the NFU 2015 Yearbook and place it in front of them.

Conservation, collaboration and precision

Members of Young Farmers’ Clubs (YFC) will be joining conservation and farming experts to enhance their understanding and skills in precision arable farming.

The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) has joined forces with the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) to develop an arable precision farming day at the Allerton Project demonstration farm, Loddington, Leicestershire.  

Nuffield scholar Davina Fillingham shares her professional expertise and study project on precision farming, and Clive Blacker from Precision Decisions explore scanning, yield mapping and guidance for successful but sustainable farming enterprises of the future. 

GWCT’s Phil Jarvis commented: "It's really important to show the next generation of farmers how technology can aid both profitable food production and help protect our farmed environment. I'm sure this event will stimulate informative discussion and positive messages."

Sam Dilcock, newly-elected Agriculture and Rural Issues (AGRI) chairman and self-employed contract farmer said: “As an Industry, we are becoming ever more scrupulous over our inputs, returns and best practice to deliver on our customers’ expectations. Best practice is a combination of cutting-edge innovations alongside tried and tested methods, to produce food which is safe for the consumer and the environment. This is paramount for the future of agriculture.  This precision farming event will deliver knowledge from experienced industry experts which our members will find both intriguing and informative on a practical level.”

Young farmers will experience conservation and farming practices first-hand at the 333 hectare mixed arable and livestock business headed up by Phil Jarvis , hear from the project’s director of policy Dr Alastair Leake, and from head of Allerton’s development and training Jim Egan

The Allerton Project is home to ground-breaking research on many areas of farming, including the successful implementation of water-friendly farming. As crop profit margins are squeezed, the need for informed management of the natural resources available to the farm becomes paramount.  The Allerton Project’s aims are to research the effects of different farming methods on wildlife and the environment, and to share the results of this research through educational activities.

For more information on the event and to book, contact: or book directly via the NFYFCwebsite.

Note to Editors:

The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) With over 25,000 members and 644 clubs, the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) is one of the largest rural youth organisations in the UK and head of a nationwide body of Young Farmers’ Clubs (YFCs) located throughout England and Wales dedicated to supporting young people in agriculture and the countryside.  Their memberships comprise young people aged between 10 and 26 years from a variety of backgrounds, who live or work in rural areas. 


Members of the YFC organisation play an important role in current (and future) social and economic aspects of the rural community. They play a key role in the sustainability of rural environments and therefore have a great interest in maintaining viable conditions in which to live and work.  YFC members can sign up for the event by visiting the NFYFC website.


The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – providing research-led conservation for a thriving countryside. The GWCT is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats and we lobby for agricultural and conservation policies based on science. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.

The Allerton Project -