While Ministers were gearing up for their first week back in the House of Commons, the NFU Poultry Board were only a few doors down, taking questions from MPs and Peers across the political spectrum.
More than 25 parliamentarians attended the event, including Farming Minister Mark Spencer, and Shadow Farming Minister Daniel Zeichner.
MPs arrived armed with questions and the board members were ready to provide answers. All were keen to hear directly from farmers about the challenges poultry producers are currently facing, with AI (Avian Influenza), supply chain issues, energy and feed costs high on the agenda.
“To other members I would say we all need to be treating MPs as major stakeholders within our businesses.”
NFU Poultry Board chair James Mottershead
Members of the NFU's Poultry Board, made up of representatives from the various poultry sectors and regions, held talks with both the Farming Minister and the Shadow Farming Minister, and identified the NFU’s key asks including:
- An urgent investigation by Defra into egg supply chain issues
- Further action on AI including a long-term strategy which features a full appraisal of AI vaccination and a review of the marketing regulations to ensure they are fit for purpose
Poultry Board chair James Mottershead also had the opportunity to speak with his own constituency MP, and sponsor of the event, Philip Dunne, who expressed his pleasure on being able to help MPs and Peers come together and meet with members. Mr Dunne highlighted AI as “an area of great concern, particularly in South Shropshire, with many livelihoods dependant on poultry”.
“Speaking to the poultry board today has been very helpful as it brings all these issues into sharp relief,” Mr Dunne concluded.
Solutions not problems
“The reception we had from MPs was ‘tell us more of these issues’ and ‘I didn’t know that, tell me how I can help’,” said James.
“It’s fantastic to have the opportunity to put forward potential solutions to some of our problems and they were well received.”
This was certainly the case for North West broiler grower Mark Forster who met with his constituency MP Dr Neil Hudson for the first time that day; their discussion focussed on AI, following a recent outbreak in the region.
Dr Hudson is the only vet in the House of Commons and, after speaking with Mark, he put his concerns around financial support for farmers affected by AI to the Farming Minister during topical questions the next day.
“Can the government reassure farmers and producers that they’re keeping their avian influenza support and compensation measures constantly under review as we navigate this crisis?” Dr Hudson asked the Farming Minister.
Keep talking to MPs
Throughout the day, MPs and Peers expressed an interest in continuing the important dialogue with poultry producers, something which the Poultry Board strongly encouraged.
North East member and independent broiler grower Will Raw has witnessed the benefits of doing just that after first meeting one of his local MPs at a previous event hosted in the Houses of Parliament, and following up with a invitation to visit his farm.
Reflecting on the day, James Mottershead said: “It was a big moment for me to be able to stand in front of the Farming Minister and Shadow Farming Minister as well as my own MP and tell them the severity of the challenges we’re facing, and what the repercussions of inaction could be.
“To other members I would say we all need to be treating MPs as major stakeholders within our businesses. When you explain the issues you face, they get it, which is why we should never be afraid to meet with our local MP so that they can understand the challenges and go on to represent us in parliament.”