Meet the NFU Sugar Board

28 April 2021

A sugar beet harvester in a field

Find out who's who on the NFU Sugar Board and what their roles and responsibilities are.

Michael Sly

NFU Sugar Board chair

Michael farms in the Fens of North Cambridgeshire and South Lincolnshire, farming 2000 hectares, across three farming businesses. The family has been involved in drainage and farming in the Fens since the 17th century.

The farms grow wheat, spring barley, sugar beet, spring beans, oilseed rape, marrowfat peas and condiment mustard. They are part of the RSPB’s Farmland Bird Friendly Zone, which now covers more than 4000 hectares and landscape scale benefits covering 230km sq. Also with fellow mustard growers, they are working on a landscape scale bee and pollinator project with Unilever.

Michael has also served as NFU county chair and the council delegate for Cambridgeshire, the most farmed county in the UK, chairing the East Anglian regional board for four years, as well serving as chair of the NFU Audit committee.

Michael is chair of the North Level District Internal Drainage Board, serving 34,000 hectares. He spent 10 years on the Anglian Northern Regional Flood and Coastal Committee. He is currently chair of the English Mustard Growers and vice chair of Condimentum LTD for the milling of mustard seeds and processing mint leaf in Norwich, working with Unilever’s Colman’s brand.

Simon Smith

NFU Sugar Board vice chair

Farming close to the Cambridgeshire-Suffolk border, Simon currently grows and delivers 40,000 tonnes of sugar beet into the Bury St Edmunds factory.

He also grows wheat, oil seed rape and beans, and runs a farm contracting business and agri-haulage company.

Since graduating from Shuttleworth Agricultural College in 1996, Simon has developed the farm business with a commitment to utilising sustainable and innovative growing techniques. He is committed to the continual development of the sugar beet crop amid challenging agronomic pressures and the removal of quotas in 2017.

Having had the privilege of participating in the 2014/15 Sugar Industry Programme, Simon was delighted to become an appointed member of the board. He lives with his wife and two young sons, and when work permits, Simon can be found racing his Caterham or supporting Norwich City Football Club.

Simon is also on the BBRO stakeholder board.

Sam Godfrey

NFU Sugar Board member

Sam has been a director in a family farming business based in Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire, which has both arable and pig enterprises since 2008.

The farm covers a wide geographical area and a range of soil types, and sugar beet is grown across most of the farm as part of a rotation, growing a considerable tonnage of sugar beet for the Newark and Wissington factories.

Sam was a participant on the Sugar Industry Programme in 2015/2016, a member of Red Tractor Combinable Crops & Sugar Beet Board and a National Pig Association Producer Group member.

Graham Liddle

NFU Sugar Board member

Based between Selby and York, Graham farms around 2500 acres in partnership with his father growing wheat, barley, oilseed rape and sugar beet. This is split between land that they own and land that is shared or contract farmed.

Additionally, they run an agricultural contracting business which is mainly involved in combinable crops, dealing with individual jobs through to whole farm contracts. They currently harvest around 4000 acres of sugar beet.

After attending Askham Bryan College, Graham went on to study agricultural mechanics at Bishop Burton. He became BASIS qualified in 2012.

As one of the most northern growers and contractors of sugar beet, Graham is still committed to growing 11,000 tons of beet despite the closure of the York factory. With attention to detail, good performance figures can still be achieved around the Vale of York.

He was co-opted onto the board after taking part in the joint British Sugar-NFU Sugar Industry Programme in 2012 and has been an elected member since 2013. Graham is also joint chair of beet reception committee.

Andrew Ross

NFU Sugar Board member

Andrew has a degree in agriculture from Newcastle upon Tyne University, and is married with three children. Along with his cousin Stuart, he farms about 1500 acres with land in the Fakenham and Holt areas of Norfolk, growing wheat, malting barley, sugar beet and HOLL oilseed rape.

The farm is responsible for 8000 tonnes of sugar beet quota.

Andrew was BASIS qualified in 1999 and has been on the professional register ever since. He participated in the Sugar Industry Programme in 2011 organised by the NFU and British Sugar.

Andrew was vice chair of the North Norfolk NFU from 2009 to 2011 and chair from 2011 to 2013. He has been chair of his local parish council for the past 10 years and has been an active committee member of Holt RFC on and off over the last 30 years.

Andrew previously sat on the Red Tractor Assurance for Combinable Crops and Sugar Beet for three years before becoming the co-chair of the Beet Reception Committee for the last three years. 

Tom Clarke

NFU Sugar Board member

As well as sugar beet, Tom grows milling and biscuit wheat, potatoes and linseed on the recently expanded 420ha farm near Ely in the Fens. 

He joined HLS in 2012 and has formed the Ely Nature-Friendly Farming Zone with 22 neighbours and counting, in partnership with the RSPB.

He is keen to educate the public about food and farming. This sees him host local school visits as well as running the Prickwillow Ploughing Festival with the local museum, getting around 2000 visitors every year. He is also active in standing up for British farming on social media and increasingly in the written and broadcast media.

Tom has a degree in economics and politics and an MBA from Warwick Business School. He worked in journalism, local government and as a management consultant across public and private sectors before unexpectedly having to return to run the family farming company in 2009. He is now an accidental fourth generation farmer. He has never studied agriculture but rather ran the business side of things and has learned how to farm 'on-the-job’. Tom was selected as an Emerging Leader at the 2019 Oxford Farming Conference.

In his second year being co-opted onto the board by the other members, Tom has taken on responsibility for the Beet Yield Challenge run by the BBRO.

Tom said: “Beet growers have a great story to tell about homegrown sugar and the progress we have made so far. There is always more work to do, and crucially through better cooperation I believe growers can seize opportunities, win greater economic power and gain more control over our industry and our livelihoods.”

Alison Lawson

NFU Sugar Board member

Alison has worked on her family farm in South Norfolk for much of her life. Working closely with her family, she farms and runs a busy agricultural contractor business, covering an area from North Norfolk down to Essex and across to Cambridgeshire. 

Alison's father was a pioneer of the first six-row self-propelled sugar beet tanker harvester. Today the team harvests around 1500 acres of sugar beet and has a 4000 tonne contract of their own. They grow W wheat, OSR, and W barley. As a business, they have always appreciated the loyalty of customers, and the importance of building long-term business relationships, some now spanning three generations.

Alison's college years were spent at Hampden Hall in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire, and the Norfolk College of Agriculture. She participated in the 2014/2015 Sugar Industry Programme, after which she joined the BBRO Stake Holder Board. This board helps to focus and prioritise the direction of research undertaken on behalf of all growers via their levy payment. She has been chair since 2015.

She lives with her partner Simon, who works as an agronomist, and her 13-year-old son, Joe.

Paul Harper

NFU Sugar Board member

Paul has spent his entire career in commodities and has been in sugar since 1976. He joined C Czarnikow in 1973 working in their London, New York and Singapore offices.

He left in 1989 to join Sucden in Paris, then left with other senior management in 1991 to start CR Sugar trading in London as joint Managing Director (CR Sugar was the London office of Czarnikow Rionda).

In 2000, Paul started Sussex Commodities and held a board position with an associate ex ED & F Man, and from 2004 he has been running his own trading company.

Paul has a huge amount of consultancy experience, having consulted for a hedge fund, major bank and a large trade house in sugar during that time.

Kit Papworth

NFU Sugar Board member

Kit is a director of LF Papworth Ltd and Tuttington Farms Ltd. LF Papworth Ltd is a contract farming business based near Aylsham in Norfolk farming 1250 hectares on behalf of over 20 different landowners.

Kit has specialised in combinable crops and sugar beet. He is on the BASIS professional register and is responsible for the farm’s agronomy and crop recording, health and safety and HR. LF Papworth Ltd won the Norfolk Champion Farms competition for 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2014.

Kit was a board member of Anglia Farmers for 12 years and was chair from 2011 to 2014, retiring from the board to chair the subsidiary AF Logic until its sale in 2017. He joined the NFU Sugar Board in 2020 with specific responsibilities for Red Tractor. Kit stepped down from his sugar board Red Tractor representation when he took up the role of Red Tractor Crops and Sugar Chair in September 2022.

Kit has been on the council of the Aylsham Show for many years, managing the food theatre. He is chair of Pensthorpe Conservation Trust. He has three children and lives with his partner Caroline.

Tim Beaver

NFU Sugar Board member

Tim is an arable tenant farmer in South Lincolnshire. Farming across a complete range of soils, he grows biscuit wheat, malting barley, oil seed rape and sugar beet.

He currently sits on the NFU Sugar Board representing active sugar beet growers in what is proving to be a quickly changing market, ensuring growers get a fair deal from British Sugar. He also sits on the Red Tractor Combinable Crops Board representing sugar beet growers.

All the members of the board are always keen to speak with growers to discuss any issue in the industry.

Sugar beet harvesting_12341

NFU Sugar Board roles and responsibilities

The NFU Sugar Board exists to represent and promote the best interests of all UK sugar beet growers as their representatives, and work with NFU Sugar staff members. The NFU Sugar negotiation team represents growers in the annual contract negotiations with British Sugar. 

Michael Sly, chair
Michael chairs NFU Sugar Board meetings and is the lead spokesperson representing sugar beet growers with British Sugar, the media, NFU Council and NFU Policy Board. He represents growers in monthly meetings and annual contract negotiations with British Sugar, playing a key role in the NFU Sugar negotiating team.  

Simon Smith, vice chair
Simon supports Michael in his duties and substitutes where necessary. A key part of the negotiation team, Simon is heavily involved in the annual contract negotiations with British Sugar alongside his role on the Recommended List Board and the mileage working group (see below).  

Beet reception

Andrew Ross, chair; Tom Clarke, vice chair
Andrew and Tom work together on the Beet Reception Committee, representing growers’ interests. They work closely with Greg Brighouse (Beet Intake Manager) to engage with British Sugar on behalf of the sugar board to ensure the smooth operation of the Beet Reception function and the factory forums. They also assist with beet intake and tarehouse functions in the campaign along with seasonal staff recruitment. 


Sam Godfrey, lead;  Graham Liddle, deputy lead
Sam and Graham represent NFU Sugar on the joint Seed Working Group along with Arthur Marshall (Senior Commercial Analyst). Together, they are responsible for leading on decisions on all matters related to seed, genetics, treatments and seed processing. They are the lead grower voices on seed related matters with the media. They engage with British Sugar on behalf of the NFU Sugar Board and take decisions necessary to ensure the smooth operation of the UK Seed Account/UK seed model. 

Recommended List (RL) Board

Sam Godfrey and Simon Smith
Sam and Simon strive to ensure growers' views are fully represented at RL board meetings; and decisions are consistent with and appropriate for UK beet growers. 

British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO)

Kit Papworth and Tim Beaver 
Kit and Tim engage with BBRO on behalf of the NFU Sugar Board and take decisions necessary to ensure the smooth operation of BBRO, working closely with Charlie Parkin (NFU Sugar Adviser). They ensure all growers' views are fully represented at BBRO Stakeholder Committee meetings throughout the year. 

Net Zero

Tom Clarke
Tom leads on climate friendly farming policy on behalf of the NFU Sugar Board. He attends the monthly NFU Net Zero Strategic Advisory Group, ensuring sugar beet growers are represented in discussions regarding the NFU’s 2040 net zero goal. 

Red Tractor

James Northen, Head of NFU Sugar (interim representative)
James works to ensure grower views are fully represented at Red Tractor meetings and decisions are consistent with and appropriate for UK sugar beet growers. He represents sugar beet growers on the Red Tractor Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and Red Tractor Crops and Sugar Beet Board, fighting for fit for purpose, proportionate standards.

Beet Delivery Service (BDS)/Mileage Working Group

Simon Smith
Alongside his other roles on the NFU Sugar Board, Simon also sits on the Mileage Working Group on behalf of NFU Sugar and takes the lead on engagement with British Sugar to ensure the Beet Delivery Service delivers value for the industry.

Board members and appointees

Alison Lawson
Alison is a valued member of the NFU Sugar Board, having represented growers’ interests on the BBRO Stakeholder Committee for many years. She farms in South Norfolk and runs a busy agricultural contractor business covering an area from North Norfolk down to Essex and across to Cambridgeshire. 

Paul Harper 
Paul is an appointee to the NFU Sugar Board, bringing a wealth of experience to the role having spent his entire career in commodities and in sugar since 1976.

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