Inviting MPs to your farm

09 August 2023

Secretary of State Steve Barclay with NFU chairman Tom Bradshaw

Photograph: No.10

Hosting on-farm visits is one of the best ways to build meaningful, long-term relationships with MPs. It's a great opportunity to get across your specific local issues, as well as informing them about the broader problems impacting farmers up and down the country.

The NFU organises hundreds of MP visits every year, but you can organise them for yourself too. The NFU team can help set up your visit; read details of how to get in touch below. Your regional NFU colleagues will be able to accompany you on farm to help facilitate the MP’s visit. Do get in touch with your local NFU team to let them know the visit is taking place.

Preparing for an MP visit

  • In your invitation be clear and concise about why you’d like your MP to come and visit you. Do you want to discuss a specific issue relating to your business or is this just a general chat about the sector?
  • Invite your MP on a Friday, when MPs tend to be in their constituency, or during any weekday over the parliamentary recess. You can check recess dates with the NFU’s External Affairs team by emailing [email protected] or on the parliamentary website.
  • Ensure the MP knows they’ll need to bring appropriate footwear and clothing and they have clear instructions to get to the farm. What3Words is one tool that offers a more precise location than a postcode alone.

“Getting Defra ministers out on farm is one of the best ways we can lobby – showing the impact of government decisions on the ground."

NFU External Affairs Manager Scott Pepe

Plan an itinerary for the visit

MPs and their staff always appreciate an agenda ahead of the visit and this allows them to come to discussions better prepared. It also increases the likelihood of them being able to come, as MPs often have calendars full of meetings and public appearances. Your local NFU team can help with this.

A suggested plan could be a farm walk, followed by a kitchen table discussion. The farm walk gives MPs the chance to see how your business runs day to day, as well as a nice photo opportunity. A kitchen table discussion also allows you to go over some of the key issues you wish to raise in more detail. It’s worth having a bad weather contingency plan, just in case.

What issues are you going to discuss?

Have a look at NFUonline to find out the big issues in your sector. If you want to discuss something else, it’s worth doing a bit of research to ensure you make your case as well as possible. Landing a few points well is more effective than overloading MPs with information. The latest NFU briefings are always available from your County Adviser or from the External Affairs team.

Do your research about the MP

The website They Work For You can be a useful tool to understand the MP’s views and voting record in advance of the meeting. The External Affairs team can also help with some background information on the MP and let you know about previous engagement the NFU has had with them (if any) - especially useful for meetings with newly-elected MPs.

Understand their influence

Get in touch

NFU External Affairs
Email: [email protected]
Tel: 020 7808 6600

Be clear about whether they are a backbench MP, involved in a committee, part of a parliamentary interest group, or hold a role in government. This will have an impact on what action the MP is able to take up on your behalf. The External Affairs team can help with this if you’re unsure.

Five key questions to ask yourself in terms of your own planning over the year, which you can then inform the MP of, could be:

  1. Based on current prices and cover bought forward, what are your production intentions this year as a percentage compared to last year?
  2. Based on market prices for feed/fertiliser/fuel, how would you forecast your intentions for production next year as a percentage?
  3. How has the availability of labour affected your production plans?
  4. Have you entered any of your land into the Government’s new ELM schemes? Why? Why not?
  5. Do you have any contractual arrangements in place for next year?

Talking about these will hopefully help MPs understand the scale of the challenges facing the industry with high costs and issues in the supply chain.

On the day

  • Be clear and concise in all discussions:
    • What is the issue/problem?
    • Why is the issue important? (Also known as the ‘so what?’ question – why should they care?)
    • What is your proposed solution?
    • What do you want them to do?
  • Think about how you can frame your issues to cut through the noise. Suggesting solutions increases the likelihood that an MP acts after their visit.
  • Welcome any staff accompanying the MP as they may be the one who has to take up any follow-up action after the visit.
  • Your MP is your local voice and can help deliver the changes you need, even if you don’t personally agree with their views.

“There is no substitute for getting decision makers out on farm.”

NFU External Affairs Manager Scott Pepe

Don’t let the MP leave without…

  • Agreeing to some follow-up action for you – that could be:
    • writing a letter to a specific Minister
    • asking a parliamentary question
    • tabling a debate on a topic you discussed on the visit
    • a farm visit again in the future

After the meeting please do update the NFU’s External Affairs team about how the meeting went so we can coordinate our lobbying in London and deliver for British farmers.

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