I hope you all managed to get some rest and recuperation over the festive period, though I expect it already feels like a distant memory.
The start of 2023, as expected, hasn’t offered any respite from the multitude of challenges that the agriculture and horticulture sector is facing.
Good news on labour
We did end the year with good news on the number of visas available in the seasonal worker scheme (SWS), but we continue to push for the removal of the additional premium on the SWS wage and to secure a longer term commitment.
We’re also seeking a visa ‘reset’ so returnees from 2022 can come back sooner in 2023.
Our success in securing an annual expansion to the scheme has been down to the robust evidence that we continually provide.
To this end, I would encourage you to fill out the End of Season labour survey which should be in your inbox very soon. Thank you for your ongoing support.
Energy support is crucial
Securing future energy support is also a key priority so it is incredibly frustrating that primary producers of agricultural and horticultural products are not included in the list of ‘energy intensive’ sectors that will access the higher tier of government support from April.
The NFU is pushing back against this and making a case for horticulture, particularly for protected crops and sectors with significant storage requirements.
Board appointees sought
With so much still to do, I am grateful for the support of my fellow NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board members who so brilliantly represent your interests.
We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated group of members who put in countless hours interrogating the many issues we deal with and formulating a plan to address them.
Each year we launch an appointments process for the board where roughly half of the positions need to be filled.
The current application window is now open, so please take a look at the details of how to apply.
Looking forward to NFU Conference
Finally, I hope to see many of you at the NFU Conference in February. It looks to be a great programme with some important issues discussed.
I’m particularly looking forward to the Horticulture and Potatoes breakout session on day one where members will be able to take part in a mini negotiation workshop and hear from me and the NFU team about how we intend to influence the government’s horticulture growth strategy. Please do come along and take part.