John Pawsey, an organic arable and sheep farmer from Suffolk has taken over the reins of the NFU Organic Forum for the next two years. In his first blog as the new Chairman, John looks back at how he got involved with the NFU, and how he wants to improve communication to members.
Looking back through my files, the first evidence I have of being involved with NFU Organics is on the 20th October 2008, which was the date for a NFU Organic Issues Group meeting. Chaired by Paul Temple and attended by farmers Nick Adams, Tom Rigby, myself, Peter Barton, Chris Hewitt with apologies from Tom Rawson. It is slightly frightening looking back at the minutes to realise that we still haven’t resolved some of the old chestnuts we are still trying to crack; concerns over too much plastic in compost, organic regulations not allowing us to use biosolids and challenges in developing markets and procurement.
In those days Issues Group members were invited onto the group to ensure that we had a good spread over the sectors, and in that early meeting we represented diary, vegetables, beef, sheep, combinable crops, soft fruit and poultry - not bad for six farmer members!
The Group was always chaired by an NFU office holder and we have had a pretty dynamic list of Chairs in the past including Meurig Raymond and Minette Batters. In addition to organic member representatives, others were elected members who also sat on the various national sector boards.. In 2016 I was co-opted as an organic representative to the Crops Board,and am pleased to say that I have been invited onto the Board again to serve a further two years.
In 2015 the Issues Group mutated into the Organic Forum, by the then Chairman Adam Quinney,. This also meant members of the forum must be elected by their Regional Boards which brought much needed new blood to the table. The new structure also allowed the group to appoint members by invitation to fill expertise gaps or sector gaps, therefore ensuring we cover all areas of organic farming.
After the Brexit referendum all Forum Chairs were co-opted onto Policy Board and Council, which was a welcome recognition of our sector and now fully integrates us into the NFU’s decision making process.
Role as Chairman:
I was delighted to be elected Chair of the Forum at our last meeting on the 18th April 2018, along with new representatives from almost all the regions in England and Wales. We are looking forward to carrying on with the forum’s development, representing our organic members on matters important to them and reporting our success to the wider membership.
During my term as Chairman, I’d like to improve how we communicate as a forum at both national and regional boards. Regionally it happens: at our East Anglian Advisory board meeting I submit an organic report for discussion or as information. This gives a chance for the organic forum rep to report on what issues the forum are tackling, key achievements or to communicate where the opportunities are for members. . I’d like to see this being mirrored across all the sector boards and encourage a more joined up approach.
It has never been more important for the National Farmers Union to hear the whole story and champion the diversity of its members. As an industry and a union we have so much to be proud of, and by officially recognising our Forums at sector level we will be a step nearer to covering all the bases for our members at a time when we can’t afford to leave any base exposed.
There are currently three places on the organic forum which are vacant & we require members in the following areas to come forward to represent their region on the Organic Forum. These are:
- North East representative
- Deputy North East representative
- East Midlands deputy representative
If any member would like further information on these roles, please email either myself firstname.lastname@example.org or Christine McDowell, Organic Forum Secretary Y2hyaXN0aW5lLm1jZG93ZWxsQG5mdS5vcmcudWs=