A packed 24 hours in East Anglia for Minette

01 November 2021

East Anglia

Change is coming that will affect every farming business − and the NFU is needed as never before to help steer British agriculture through.

That was a key message from NFU President Minette Batters during a whistle-stop tour of East Anglia.

During five meetings in 24 hours she highlighted the challenges facing farming – including labour shortages, inflationary pressures, new trade deals and reductions in farm support – but also the opportunities offered in areas such as climate-friendly food production.

“I am constantly trying to bring to life the excitement there is in our industry because there is a huge amount that we can do,” she said.

She said the success of the NFU’s campaign on food standards, which was backed by a one million-strong petition, showed what could be achieved, leading to the establishment of the Trade and Agriculture Commission despite strong initial opposition from the Government.

“At the heart of what we have been doing is campaigning for change on one arm, hopefully grabbing the headlines, and then presenting fully worked up policy solutions on the other,” she said.

“On standards, we initially thought there was no way of obtaining such strong support but then we worked with Jamie Oliver and the Mail on Sunday and we reached one million signatures in a matter of weeks. As a result, we are the only sector with any scrutiny on trade deals.”

Minette’s visit started at Pepsal End Farm outside Luton, hosted by the Speirs family. After a brief overview of the NFU’s current priorities, she spent more than an hour answering questions on issues including Farming Rules for Water, the Red Tractor scheme and food and farming education in schools.

She then headed to the Cambridgeshire Fens, where she spoke and took questions from more than 40 members at Alder’s Farm, Wimblington, hosted by branch chair Alison Langley.

One issue under discussion there was the impact of labour shortages, with County Chair Mat Smith highlighting the lack of workers for field operations, pack houses and processing lines.

Minette said labour was both a covid and a post-Brexit challenge. The NFU was campaigning for solutions, including a seasonal workers’ scheme, open to flowers and plants as well as food, and a short-term covid recovery visa.

“Farmers need access to a competent and reliable workforce. It’s a fact that there are not enough people unemployed at the moment to fill the vacancies here and I hope we will find a practical solution,” she said.

The day finished with a member dinner in Newmarket before breakfast the next day with Norfolk and Suffolk members. Her visit ended in Essex, where she met members at Parklands Farm, Galleywood, hosted by Essex County Chair Christy Willett.

Ask us a question about this page

Once you have submitted your query our NFU CallFirst team will contact you and, if appropriate, your question will be passed on to one of our policy teams.

By completing the form with your details on this page, you are agreeing to have this information sent to the NFU for the purposes of contacting you regarding your enquiry. Please take time to read the NFU’s Privacy Policy if you require further information.