Meet the NFU Sugar Board

Sugar Board March 2019_61907

Michael Sly, Board Chairman                                                                 

I farm in the Fens of North Cambridgeshire and South Lincolnshire, farming 2,000 hectares, across three farming businesses. The family in various parts have been involved in drainage and farming in the Fens since the 17th Century.

Growing wheat, spring barley, sugar beet, spring beans, oilseed rape, marrowfat peas and condiment mustard. The farms are part of the RSPB’s Farmland Bird Friendly Zone, which now covers over 4,000 hectares and landscape scale benefits covering 230 square kilometres. Also with fellow mustard growers we are working on a landscape scale bee and pollinator project with Unilever.

I am currently Chairman of the NFU Sugar Board representing 3,000 growers. I have also served as NFU County Chair and the Council delegate for Cambridgeshire the most farmed county in the UK, chairing the East Anglian regional board for four years, as well serving as Chair of the NFU Audit committee.

I am Chairman of the North Level District Internal Drainage Board, serving 34,000 hectares. I spent 10 years on the Anglian Northern Regional Flood and Coastal Committee. I am currently chairman of the English Mustard Growers and Vice Chairman of Condimentum LTD for the milling of mustard seeds and processing mint leaf in Norwich, working with Unilever’s Colman’s brand.

Other interests include hosting Open Farm and Vintage Weekend every June, with 12,500 visitors attending over the weekend, welcoming over 65,000 people since 2006. Promoting food production, environmental benefits on farm and community inter action.

I am Chairman of the Thorney Society which promotes the history, architecture of the parish and runs the village Museum. Also a member of the East of England Agricultural Society’s Council.

Michael Sly, NFU Sugar Board Chairman

Simon Smith, Board Vice Chairman

Farming close to the Cambridgeshire / Suffolk border, Simon currently grow and deliver 40,000 tonnes of sugar beet into the Bury St Edmunds factory. He also grow wheat, oil seed rape and beans and run a farm contracting business and agri-haulage company.

Since graduating from Shuttleworth Agricultural college in 1996, Simon has developed the farm business with a commitment to utilising sustainable and innovative growing techniques.

Simon is committed to the continual development of the sugar beet crop amid challenging agronomic pressures and the removal of quotas in 2017.

Having had the privilege of participating in the 2014/15 Sugar Industry Programme, Simon was delighted to become an appointed member of the board. He lives with my wife and two young sons and when work permits, Simon can be found racing my Caterham or supporting Norwich City Football Club. Simon was appointed to the board in 2015 and is on the BBRO stakeholder board.

Simon Smith, NFU Sugar Board Vice Chairman

Mark Fletcher

Based in Norfolk, Mark is a tenant farmer with a large contract farming business that provides specialist sugar beet services across the North and North West Norfolk. Mark delivers to both Wissington and Cantley factories.

Mark became involved with the sugar board following his participation on the inaugural Sugar Industry Programme in 2011. Having represented UK growers both at home in the UK, and abroad via work with CIBE and The World association of Beet and Cane Growers, Mark has expanded his knowledge of the industry and is able to use his extensive experience in his current roles on the board.

Mark is the lead seed negotiator for the NFU Sugar board and sits on the industries Seed Working Group. The Seed Working Group is responsible for the purchasing of all raw seed, processing, treatment and delivery. The aim is to source the best seed possible for the collective benefit of the growers and industry, which it achieves year on year. Having previously been part of the BBRO stakeholder committee Mark has a keen interest in research and technology of the crop and now sits on the BBRO’s Recommend list committee for NFU Sugar.

Mark Fletcher, NFU Sugar Board

Sam Godfrey

I have been a director in a family farming business based in Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire which has both an arable and pig enterprise since 2008. The farm covers a wide geographical area and a range of soil types, and sugar beet is grown across most of the farm as part of a rotation, growing a considerable tonnage of sugar beet for the Newark and Wissington factories. I was a participant on the Sugar Industry Programme in 2015/2016, a member of Red Tractor Combinable Crops & Sugar Beet Board and a  National Pig Association Producer Group member.

Sam Godfrey, NFU Sugar Board

Nick Harris

Nick has experience in various sectors of the food industry, including food service, the production of smoked salmon, the provision of ingredients to airline caterers and most recently as CEO of the largest wholesale and distribution company to serve the bakeries and food manufacturers throughout the UK. Nick has worked at Board level with Private Equity and as part of the Country management team in International groups.

Over the last 20 years, managing the purchase and supply of sugar and yeasts to the UK market, has meant that Nick has developed a keen interest in the production and supply of sugar and molasses throughout Europe. Being responsible for a multi temperature fleet of vehicles has meant that, as roads become more congested, Nick is always keen to look at alternative distribution solutions that are of benefit to all parties.

Nick Harris, NFU Sugar Board

Graham Liddle

Based between Selby and York, Graham farms around 2500 acres in partnership with his father growing wheat, barley, oilseed rape and sugar beet. This is split between land that they own and land that is shared or contract farmed. Additionally they run an agricultural contracting business which is mainly involved in combinable crops, dealing with individual jobs through to whole farm contracts. Furthermore they currently harvest around 4000 acres of sugar beet.

After attending Askham Bryan College, Graham then went on to study agricultural mechanics at Bishop Burton. He became BASIS qualified in 2012.

As one of the most northern growers and contractors of sugar beet, Graham is still committed to growing 11000 tons of beet despite the closure of York factory. With attention to detail good performance figures can still be achieved around the Vale of York.

He was co-opted onto the board after taking part in the joint British Sugar-NFU, Sugar Industry Programme in 2012 and has been an elected member since 2013. Graham is also joint chair of beet reception committee.

Graham Liddle Sugar

Séan Rickard

After brief careers as a musician and a graphic artist, Séan studied at the London School of Economics – specialising in the economics of industry – and then post graduate at Birkbeck College, and Cranfield School of Management. In 1987 he was appointed Chief Economist for the National Farmers Union and also an employers’ representative on the Agricultural Wages Board. In 1995 he joined the Cranfield School of Management and became Director of its world renowned MBA Programme.

Between 1995 and 2012 he was a government academic economic advisor on food and farming. Since retiring from Cranfield in 2012 he has taken up a number of visiting lectureships and been appointed as a research fellow at the Royal Institution. Through his consultancy, Sean Rickard Ltd he has been commissioned by private and public organisations to write a number of reports relating to agriculture, generally in the areas of pricing, productivity and competitiveness. Séan is regarded as a national expert on the economics of food and farming and with more than 35 years experience as a public speaker his reputation as an expert and communicator results in regular interviews for the media. HIs book, The Economics of Organisations and Strategy is published by McGraw-Hill. And in his spare time Séan still plays guitar in an ageing rock ‘n’ roll band.

Sean Rickard, NFU Sugar Board

Andrew Ross

Andrew is married with 3 children. He has a degree in agriculture from Newcastle upon Tyne University. Along with his cousin Stuart, he farms about 1500 acres with land in the Fakenham and Holt areas of Norfolk, growing wheat, malting barley, sugar beet and HOLL oilseed rape. The farm is responsible for 8000 tonnes of Sugar Beet quota.

Andrew was BASIS qualified in 1999 and has been on the professional register ever since. He participated in the Sugar Industry Programme 2011 organised by the NFU and British Sugar.

Andrew was vice chairman of the North Norfolk NFU from 2009-2011 and chairman from 2011-2013. He has been chairman of his local Parish council for the past 10 years and has been an active Committee member of Holt RFC on and off over the last 30 years.

Andrew previously sat on the Red Tractor Assurance for Combinable Crops and Sugar Beet for 3 years before becoming the co-chair of the Beet Reception Committee for the last 3 years. 

Andrew Ross, NFU Sugar Board

Alison Lawson

I have worked on our family farm in South Norfolk for much of my life. Working closely with my family we farm and run a busy agricultural contractor’s business covering an area from North Norfolk down to Essex and across to Cambridgeshire. Employing 8 full time staff, and running a fleet of 5 self- propelled and trailed spreaders, Sheila and I speak to sugar beet growers throughout the year reference their fertiliser spreading

My father was a pioneer of the first 6-row self-propelled sugar beet tanker harvester. Today we harvest around 1,500 acres of sugar beet and have a 4000 tonne contract of our own. We grow W Wheat, OSR, and W Barley on our family farm. As a business we have always appreciated the loyalty of our many customers, and the importance of building long term business relationships, some now spanning 3 generations.

My college years were spent at Hampden Hall in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire, and the Norfolk College of Agriculture.

I was very lucky to participate in the 2014 / 2015 Sugar Industry Programme after which I joined the BBRO Stake Holder Board. This board helps to focus and prioritise the direction of research undertaken on behalf of all growers via their levy payment. Since 2015 it has been my privilege to Chair this board and watch a great team develop.

This work has also helped me gain a good understanding of the various challenges lying ahead for sugar beet growers, especially given the potential loss of key active ingredients.

I live with my partner Simon who works as an Agronomist, and my13-year-old son Joe. Much of our spare time is spent converting an old derelict cow shed! as well as an old Landrover, and enjoying our 2 dogs.

Alison Lawson

Tom Clarke

As well as sugar beet, Tom Clarke grows milling & biscuit wheat, potatoes and linseed on the recently expanded 420Ha farm near Ely in the Fens. He joined HLS in 2012 and has formed the Ely Nature-Friendly Farming Zone with 22 neighbours and counting, in partnership with the RSPB.

He is keen to educate the public about food and farming. This sees him host local school visits as well as running the Prickwillow Ploughing Festival with the local museum, getting around 2,000 visitors every year. He is also active in standing up for British farming on social media and increasingly in the written and broadcast media.

Tom has a degree in Economics & Politics and an MBA from Warwick Business School. He worked in journalism, local government and as a management consultant across public & private sectors before unexpectedly having to return to run the family farming company in 2009. He is now an accidental 4th generation farmer. He has never studied agriculture but rather ran the business side of things and has learned how to farm “on-the-job’. Tom was selected as an ‘Emerging Leader’ at the 2019 Oxford Farming Conference.

In his second year being co-opted onto the Board by the other members, Tom has taken on responsibility for the Beet Yield Challenge run by the BBRO.

Tom said, “Beet growers have a great story to tell about homegrown sugar and the progress we have made so far. There is always more work to do, and crucially through better cooperation I believe growers can seize opportunities, win greater economic power and gain more control over our industry and our livelihoods.”

Tom Clarke

John Haynes

I am Farm Manager for MJ & SC Collins, a 1200ha family owned farming business growing cereals, sugar beet and soya beans on the Essex/Herts border. I have been in the position for 6 years having formerly worked for both Farmcare and Velcourt throughout East Anglia. I am BASIS, FACTS and Advanced Cereals qualified and gained my degree in Agriculture with Business Management at Writtle College in 2005. I am also vice chairman of my local NFU branch.

All the members of the board are always keen to speak with growers to discuss any issue in the industry.


Last edited on: 13:03:2019

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  • Posted by: M F HollidayPosted on: 26/02/2016 14:14:17

    Comment: Is there any possibility of having the "No Ploughing until January" Rule reversed ? On our heavy land we had no dry enough opportunities to spread muck and plough in January or February. We are starting today, virtually in March, and will have to apply a lot of horsepower in a vain attempt to get a proper seedbed, when earlier ploughing and nature would have done it for us. Whoever makes these arcane rules knows nothing about combining wild life with soil management and good husbandry

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