The new chairman of NFU Norfolk is urging farmers to champion their industry at a pivotal time for agriculture and horticulture.
Nick Deane, who farms within the Norfolk Broads at Hoveton, says the next two years will be fundamental for farming’s future and it is vital that farmers work together to ensure their voice is heard.
“Whatever the final outcome of Brexit, the decisions will have massive implications for farming in Norfolk so we need to be astute in getting our messages across and explaining how agriculture will be affected,” he said.
“Farmers are good at adapting to change – the past 100 years have shown that – but we do need to know the direction of travel. It’s the uncertainty that’s haunting the industry at the moment.”
Nick, 56, has been farming in Norfolk since 1984, when he took over the family farm after graduating from Wye College in Kent. He later joined forces with two other landowners to establish Bure Farm Services, a contracting group that farms just over 2000 acres, growing malting barley, wheat, potatoes, sugar beet and oilseed rape.
He has been involved with the NFU throughout his farming career and is proud to be taking over during its centenary year in Norfolk.
“I’m flattered to be in the chair at this time. The centenary will put a focus on Norfolk food and farming and we need to celebrate that and use it to good effect,” he said.
“I’m lucky that the outgoing chairman, Tony Bambridge, has put in a lot of work ahead of the centenary. He’s left a big pair of wellies for me to jump into.”
One of the local issues facing farmers is the Environment Agency’s review of irrigation licences in the Broads, undertaken to ensure the licences comply with environmental regulations.
Nick said the Broadband landscape was stunning and had to be looked after carefully, within the context of modern farming.
“None of us who live here, and work here, in any way want to see the Broadland habitat damaged by farming operations but we all have businesses to run and there’s a huge need for food to be produced. It’s about getting that balance right between the two,” he said.
“Farms are businesses and we have to make a profit so we can reinvest and employ people, but we have to proceed in an environmentally-responsible way.”
He also wants to see more young people coming into agriculture, to replace an ageing population of farmers and farm workers.
“We do need to attract younger people into the business and we have to ensure that agriculture is rewarding enough, and motivational enough, for them to make a successful career within it,” he said.
Nick takes over as county chairman from Tony Bambridge at the NFU Conference in Birmingham, on 20 February. Tony is taking on a new role as council delegate, replacing Ken Proctor.
“I’m looking forward to the role with excitement, anticipation and a slight degree of nervousness as well. There’s a lot to do because there’s going to be a lot of change,” said Nick.