'A consistent champion of farmers' - just one of the many tributes paid to NFU National Water Resources Specialist Paul Hammett as he brings his 40 years with the organisation to a close.
Paul from Newport, South Wales studied at Bangor University before starting his long NFU career as assistant group secretary in Bedfordshire in the early 1980s.
For the past 10 years he has led on water resource issues, building close links with regulators and stakeholders and working hard to ensure water for food is given the priority it deserves.
NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts said: “Paul is a genuine national expert on water resource issues. I’m indebted to him for his patience, perseverance and ability to explain complex issues in simple terms to an officeholder who took on the water portfolio with almost zero knowledge of the subject.
“Paul’s enthusiasm and can-do attitude to solve complex challenges is infectious and I have lost count of the number of members who have told me how important Paul’s input has been to their own business challenges.
“I will miss our annual trips to do interviews at empty reservoirs and I would like to wish Paul all the best for the future.”
It was while working as Regional Environment Adviser for NFU East Anglia that Paul spent an increasing amount of time on water resource issues, particularly in the environmentally-sensitive Norfolk and Suffolk Broads.
"A huge debt of gratitude"
Past NFU Norfolk Chair Nick Deane recalled: “Recognising the importance of water resources in the area, and Paul’s capabilities, Norfolk members pressed hard for the creation of the role of national water resources specialist.
“We were delighted when Paul secured the role. He has exceeded our expectations of what his role would involve for Norfolk and he has worked tirelessly to raise the profile of agricultural water resources.
“He has been a constant source of wisdom, facilitation and expert advice. His calm ability to quietly focus a meeting on a contentious issue and resolve it to farmers' benefit has resulted in progress being made in difficult situations.
“Norfolk owes Paul a huge debt of gratitude for all the effort he has put in to securing our water supplies.”
Among the many organisations Paul has worked closely with is the UK Irrigation Association, headed by Melvyn Kay.
"A focused voice for water in agriculture"
Melvyn said: “Paul has been a staunch member of UKIA over the last 20 years supporting all our activities and including our international visits to Bulgaria, Italy, Morocco and Spain.
“I have worked closely with Paul over the years and his advice and counsel has been invaluable to me.
“I shall always remember his catalytic role in forming, hosting, and chairing the Water for Food Group, which brought together a rather disparate group of organisations involved in irrigation following the 2010 to 2012 drought, building social capital across the sector and giving a focused voice for water in agriculture.”
Paul has taken that focus on collaboration and cooperation through to the NFU’s involvement with Water Resources East, recognising the need to involve agriculture and horticulture in long-term strategic water planning.
WRE Chair Dr Paul Leinster said: “Paul has been a consistent champion of farmers and the agriculture sector for the use and access to water resources and has used his expertise and knowledge to inform and shape debates on the sector’s need for water.
“As we work towards our first draft regional plan in 2022, Paul has helped us to better understand the needs and challenges faced by farmers, allowing a more informed response to the needs of the sector.
“Paul will be missed, not just for his contribution to the sector but for how much fun he was to work with, sometimes raising challenging ideas and positions, but always in an engaging and collaborative way.”
Paul retires at the end of January. His replacement is Kelly Hewson-Fisher, who has joined the NFU after working as a catchment adviser for Anglian Water.