Exploring changing relationships with UK growers

Horticulture and Potatoes board chairman, Guy Poskitt, reflects on the highlights from NFU Council and welcomes members to get in touch to share their experiences of their relationships with retailers.

Guy Poskitt_170_255The past couple of weeks have been busy. NFU Council was very interesting: a presentation from Red Tractor illustrated to me that more consumers than ever now understand the meaning of it in some form or other, although I did make my point that we are still waiting for more progress on earned recognition and that, as this scheme is largely funded by growers, please don't create complications in the audit process that we do not need.

Also at Council was Mark Grimshaw, the head of the RPA. He explained the roll out process for the new payment scheme and even told us that the helpline desks will now be manned at the weekend! At last someone has woken up to the fact that this is the time most growers and farmers do their office work. I urge members to hurry up and register. My advice is, don't try online – ring up, as the verification process online is tedious, often ending up with questions you can't answer. I am sure the roll out will not be without its problems, but I have confidence that the RPA will deliver.

I recently spoke at the Crop Protection Association conference in Peterborough about our Healthy Harvest campaign which I am sure you all recognise the importance of. One lady said to me that we need to rebrand pesticides as crop protection products – a starting point to help understanding of what these are and why we use them. Similarly education needs to explain this in school.

The horticulture & potatoes team have been meeting with major food service and retail businesses recently. A visit to The Co-operative was interesting. The Co-op, as we know, has gone through massive changes and is focusing its plans on opening smaller stores to become the best convenience store player in the market. The meeting was positive, with talk of fairness in the supply chain, longer term deals and transparency. The Co-op is very supportive of British - they have ‘Born and Bred’ commitments to sourcing British that are well developed for protein and dairy, but are still in the early stages for produce. We also met with Aldi recently. Aldi certainly wants to, and is, involving British farmers in their supply base and were keen to impress on us that integrity, simplicity and transparency were key to those relationships. As for longer term deals – this is something Aldi are already doing.

Both these retailers, and others we have met, are keen to hear from us how they could do it better for British Agriculture. They are keen to hear from us what ‘good’ looks like in terms of relationships. And while they are getting closer to their growers, they also want to know if we as the NFU are hearing feedback from growers that is different to what they are hearing directly themselves. So I would be interested to hear, in total confidence, any experiences you have had or are currently having with these retailers. Please feel free to get in touch (Z3V5bmZ1QHBvc2tpdHRjYXJyb3RzLmNvLnVr).

Finally, getting your views on all the issues we deal with relies in part on making sure we've got a good spread of growers from different sectors on the national board for horticulture and potatoes. The nomination process to get on the board is open now (until midday on Friday 27 February 2015) – so here’s your chance to get involved.

The board elections process is genuinely open to all NFU members - having the right attitude and aptitude is more important than political experience. You'll need enthusiasm and be happy to discuss thorny issues widely with other growers in your sector and beyond. I’ve met hundreds of NFU members since I've been chairman and they all have something to say and are passionate about many issues. As chairman, let me tell you we want people on the board who are prepared to get stuck in and work for the best interests of the whole sector they represent.

Interested in joining the board? Find out how