Trade deals, high speed rail, the farmed environment and supply chain fairness were put under the spotlight, among other issues, at the NFU Warwickshire annual general meeting.
At last night’s meeting (17 January), at NFU headquarters, at Stoneleigh Park, President Minette Batters and farmers also discussed spiralling costs following unprecedented hikes in fuel, feed and fertiliser over the past 12 months.
Mrs Batters said: “We are going into a very competitive time politically and among all of that we have cost inflation on farm that is unprecedented.
“As farmers we are seeing feed costs up 73 per cent, fuel costs massively up, wage inflation, which is well in excess of 13 per cent, fertiliser cost up 270 per cent, and the wholesale gas price alone, which dictates nearly all of this, 650 per cent higher than in 2019.
“That is what is driving all of this and the invasion of Ukraine sadly is looking like it is not going to end any time soon.
“So, there are many challenges and coupled with supply chain fairness and having contracts that are fit for purpose the role of the NFU on all of the issues that I have discussed with you is holding Government to account and having solutions in place.
“For me all of this comes back to getting a policy that has productive farming and food production at its heart and the challenge is to get Government to realise this is about the environment and food and the two of them cannot be simply separated.”
The Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMs) was also raised, and Warwickshire 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.
The NFU President said future schemes needed to be right, work hand-in-hand with farming and, given current sector pressures, farmers needed solid information to inform their business decisions.
“ELMs and the Sustainable Farming Incentive has to be fit for purpose and we have put policy proposals forward as to what that should look like,” she added.
Westminster and grassroots campaigning were also discussed and the meeting heard about work with former prime Minister Liz Truss during her short term in office last year 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.
“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.”
Mrs Batters said discussions continued with The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey in her role as Defra Secretary of State and her colleagues as well as with members of the Shadow Cabinet.
“Warwickshire is a strong farming county, it has incredible farm businesses large and small who we represent,” she added.
“Be assured the NFU will continue to back you and work hard for you and your business in the months and years ahead.”
At the meeting Mrs Batters also paid tribute to farmers and industry representatives who passed away last year including NFU Central Warwickshire group secretary Roger Campion and Lord Plumb of Coleshill.