NFU Regional Director David Hall says profit needs to be made if farming is to achieve sustainability targets

28 February 2022

North West

The NFU conference is a great opportunity to show the great work of the organisation and bring together a range of key speakers, both nationally and internationally to talk about the challenges and opportunities that the food and farming sector face.

Our President gave an excellent opening address confirming that farmers are up for the challenge in delivering climate friendly food, but that government needs to play its part in creating the right policy to deliver a commercial environment for businesses to grow. The NFU launched a Blue Print for the Future and I encourage you to have  a read of the document which outlines the asks of Government.

Sir David Ramsden CBE, Deputy Governor for Markets & Banking, Bank of England was the first external speaker giving a detailed overview of the economy and thoughts on market dynamics and inflation.

This is not an easy subject to deliver to 1,400 people but he did it in an engaging way and many people admired his optimism that inflation would peak at just over 7% and that it would be down to 2% within a monetary cycle.

This did raise an eyebrow from many farmers in the room as they have seen double digit inflation across the board and triple digit on some individual items such as fertiliser. 

It was pleasing to hear that George Eustice recognised the inflation that farmers are facing which is eroding any gains that are made from increased farm gate prices.

It was also pleasing to hear that Defra have increased the pot of funding for The Farming Equipment and Technology Fund which was three times oversubscribed.

The demand for this support clearly demonstrates that farmers are looking to invest in their businesses and minimise the impact of the loss of BPS income.

I was disappointed that he did not provide any further clarity on future funding through the Local Nature and Landscape Recovery elements of the ELM scheme. The lack of detail is hugely frustrating as it does not allow farmers to look at what will be best for their business and make informed decisions.

I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to meet with Lord Benyon whilst he was in the North West to visit a number of sites in the Lake District National Park.

He was very interested to hear about farming in the LDNP and some of the challenges of delivering nature recovery as well as delivering high quality food.

There are many examples of where farmers are doing this, and we just need to get the economic models right and both outcomes can be achieved. I did make the point that farmers are business men and need to make a profit from farming to be able to reinvest for the future and have a sustainable business.

This is a comment that was clearly made in a truly inspirational speech by Theo De Jager the President of the World Farmers’ Organisation.

He told conference that if farming is not profitable it is not sustainable. This is something that is true the world over and it is vital that as farmers we look to ensure we can deliver everything that our customers require.

How this will happen is difficult to visualise though as a significant customer for upland farmers is the public purse, and there is a lack of clarity on exactly what the public want and more importantly, what they are prepared to pay for.

With commodity prices where they are, many farmers will look to increase production to replace lost income which may be counterproductive.

The sooner Defra clarify what future funds and schemes contain; the quicker farmers will be able to decide the direction they want to take their business.

This year sees changes to the officeholder teams nationally and regionally. I would like to congratulate Tom Bradshaw on becoming Deputy President and David Exwood on becoming Vice President.

In the North West I welcome Richard Yarwood as Cheshire County Chair and thank Richard Blackburn for everything he has done during his tenure.

He has significantly raised the profile of the issues faced by members in Cheshire and I am pleased that Richard will continue to be involved by joining the North West Dairy Board.

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