Trade deals, labour, animal health, the farmed environment and supply chain fairness were put under the spotlight at the NFU Shropshire annual general meeting, including current challenges in poultry, pig and other sectors.
At last night’s meeting (30 November), at the Wroxeter Hotel, NFU President Minette Batters and farmers also discussed spiralling costs following unprecedented hikes in fuel, feed and fertiliser over the past 12 months.
The Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMs) was also raised, and Shropshire farmers agreed it needed to be fit for purpose and allow them to continue to produce traceable, sustainable, climate-friendly food, and deliver for the environment.
ELMs is the new way Government will support farmers following the UK’s exit from the EU for protecting and maintaining the environment through sustainable farming practices.
Members heard that ELMs was far too prescriptive and there also needed to be the right level of funding and budget in the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) strand of it for farming, food production and the environment.
The NFU President said future schemes needed to be right, work hand-in-hand with farming and given current sector pressures county farmers and growers, and those across the country, needed solid information to inform their business decisions.
Westminster and grassroots campaigning and lobbying were also discussed and the meeting heard about work during the Boris Johnson era, discussions with Liz Truss when she was in power and continued talks now with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, his Government and departments.
“Everything is political,” Mrs Batters said.
“Be it the future of ELMs, the future of people working in our industry, the future of trade or our relationship with Europe, and for us as a proudly apolitical organisation it’s been important to forge and create relationships with everyone.
“Whether that is with this Government, with Oswestry and North Shropshire MP Helen Morgan, following her election as a Liberal Democrat politician this year, with Sir Keir Starmer, Caroline Lucas or even Sir Tony Blair, who I met recently.
“These relationships and the discussions we have with politicians are so important and the challenge is to work up a solution whenever there is a problem but to also campaign for change, keep farming at the front of the agenda and to get MPs out on farm.”
In Shropshire, alongside constituency meetings from Ludlow to Market Drayton, the union recently met Ranil Jayawardena at PDM, near Newport, when he was Defra Secretary of State.
Mrs Batters said that work and those discussions now continued with The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey in post.
“I would urge you to continue to get your MPs out on farm to show them what you do and raise sector issues, working with the NFU team,” she added.
“Shropshire is a strong farming county, it has incredible growers and farm businesses large and small who we represent – be assured the NFU will continue to back you and work hard for you and your business in the months and years ahead.”