NFU23: Meet the NFU conference speakers

27 January 2023

NFU Conference 2023 artwork with the words

Meet the industry leaders, experts and political heavyweights that will be discussing the future of agriculture and horticulture at #NFU23 at the ICC, Birmingham, 21–22 February 2023.

Get to know the many conference chairs, speakers, coordinators and mentors from across the industry who are taking part in NFU Conference 2023.

Click on their profile to read their full biography. 

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | J | L | M | O | R | S | T | W 

See our Conference programme

A

Lee Abbey

Chief Horticulture & Potatoes Adviser

Lee has been at the NFU for 18 years and the last 4 years as Chief Adviser.

He works with the national board for Horticulture & Potatoes to develop and deliver its key strategic aims.

B

David Barton

NFU Livestock Board chair

David was born and raised on his family farm in the Cotswolds where he farms a beef suckler herd.

David is in Countryside Stewardship grassland options, such as GS4 herbal leys, which he uses to rear and finish predominately grass-fed beef.

Cereals grown on the farm are also used to feed his stock, allowing David to use the two businesses to support each other and provide sustainable produce. He also has a very small flock of pedigree poll Dorset sheep.

He has also previously stood as the NFU South West Livestock Board chair and has worked with AHDB as a strategic farm to improve profitability and efficiency.

Minette Batters

Former NFU President

Minette runs a tenanted family farm in Wiltshire.  The mixed farming business includes a 100-cow continental cross suckler herd, as well as sheep and arable.

Diversification includes the conversion of a 17th century tithe barn into a wedding and corporate events venue, and horse liveries. Minette co-founded the campaigning initiatives 'Ladies in Beef' and the 'Great British Beef Week'.

Campaigning on behalf of NFU members about the importance of British food and farming has been a key driver for Minette throughout her time at the NFU. In 2020 she led one of the most successful petitions ever, bringing together a coalition of chefs, including Jamie Oliver, farmers, environmentalists, consumer groups and animal welfare experts – resulting in over one million people signing the NFU food standards petition. She has also regularly engaged with different media genres including appearances on Desert Island Discs, Question Time, and Any Questions.

She has been an NFU member from grassroots through to County Chair; she served as Wiltshire’s Council delegate and also as Regional Board Chair for the South West. Minette has also been a member of NFU Governance Board and served as NFU Deputy President for four years from 2014 to 2018, before being elected as president in February 2018. Minette is also an ambassador of Farm Africa and was made a Deputy Lieutenant to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in 2021.

Officeholder responsibilities 

  • Trade and standards
  • EU and international relations
  • Taxation and fiscal policy
  • Science and research and development
  • Food supply chain (fair dealing, Markets and Authorities, competition, regulation)
  • Food service
  • AHDB
  • Levelling up
  • Education

Tom Bradshaw

NFU President

Tom farms in partnership with his wife, Emily, and his parents in North Essex. Alongside a small owned farm they run a larger contract farming business growing a range of combinable crops across 950 hectares in North East Essex.

The home farm is based around arable production but has also diversified into equestrian and renewables.

Tom has represented the NFU from Local Branch Chairman through to Chair of the National Combinable Crops Board.

Tom was elected to the position of NFU President in February 2024.

Responsibilities

  • Animal health and welfare incl. bTB
  • Trade and standards
  • Climate, energy and net zero
  • Food supply chain (fair dealing, mergers and acquisitions, competition, regulation)
  • Animal ID and movements
  • Assurance review
  • Taxation and fiscal policy
  • Immigration

C

Thérèse Coffey served as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs between 25 October 2022 and 13 November 2023.

She was previously Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and Deputy Prime Minister, between 6 September 2022 and 25 October 2022.

Ms Coffey was also Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions between 8 September 2019 and 6 September 2022 and Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs between 25 July 2019 and 8 September 2019.

She was Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from 17 July 2016 to 25 July 2019. She was elected the Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal in May 2010.

Matt Culley

NFU Combinable Crops Board member

Matt farms in partnership with his brother in Hampshire, currently managing 650 hectares of owned and contract farmed chalk loam, clay cap and gravel soils, supporting wheat, barley and oilseed rape over the four coarse rotation.

Wheat is grown for the feed market, with a small area grown for seed. Winter barley is feed and spring barley is for malting. The farming partnership also runs a grain storage business with drying facilities and a soft fruit enterprise.

Matt served as NFU Combinable Crops Board chair from 2020-2024.

D

E

Martin Emmett

NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board chair

Martin was elected chair of the NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board in 2022. 

He is a director of Tristram Plants, part of the Farplants co-operative which grows and markets over 2000 plant varieties and generates more than £50 million annual sales through retail.

David Exwood

NFU Deputy President

David believes that the future of farming isn't about managed decline and dependence on environmental payments, it's about creating new opportunities for profitable food production alongside net zero and biodiversity.

David farms south of Horsham in West Sussex with his wife and two sons over 1200 tenanted hectares in the heart of the Sussex Weald.

Starting in 1989 with 70ha the business now has arable, dairy beef, Sussex suckler herd and sheep enterprises. In 2003 the Farm Shop opened and sells a wide range of food from the Victorian stable yard at Westons.

He has served previously within the NFU as Branch Chair, West Sussex Council Delegate, South East Regional Chair as well as four years on Governance Board.

David was elected to the position of NFU Deputy President in February 2024.

Responsibilities

  • EU and international relations
  • Banking
  • Biodiversity
  • Food labelling
  • Food safety
  • Food service and hospitality
  • Agricultural transition (productivity, ELMs, stability)
  • Plant health
  • Assurance schemes
  • British Agriculture Bureau
  • Health, safety and wellbeing
  • Agricultural transport
  • Uplands
  • Tenants

F

Richard Findlay

NFU Livestock Board chair (2018-2024)

Richard farms a mixed beef and sheep holding in Westerdale in the North York Moors National Park.

He has 2000 acres of moorland in a HLS agreement and the farm is stocked with mainly Easycare ewes as well as pedigree flocks of Beltex and Suffolks.

He is director of the “7 Hill Farmers Ltd” producer group and has been NFU Livestock Board chair since March 2018.

Amy Fry

Chief adviser (food business unit), National Farmers’ Union

Amy joined the NFU as chief food business unit adviser in June 2022 having previously spent 20 years in the food industry in various commercial management roles.

The role of the food business unit is to raise the profile and the voice of NFU members within the supply chain.

It supports with building better fairer supply chain relationships through its understanding of the challenges for all in the supply chain.

G

H

J

Terry Jones

NFU Director General

Terry Jones re-joined the NFU as its Director General in April 2016. For five years previously he had been running food industry trade associations. In 2011 he joined the Food & Drink Federation (FDF) as its Director of Communications, where he sought to bring to life how food manufacturers could deliver increased rates of sustainable growth.

Leaving FDF at the end of 2014, he took up the post of DG at the Provision Trade Federation (PTF) looking after the interests of businesses involved in the UK bacon and dairy trade.

Before working at FDF and PTF Terry worked for the NFU from 2002-2011 in a variety of roles including Head of Government Affairs, Head of Food Chain and Director of Communications.

Terry lives in Cheshire with his wife Emma and their two daughters.

L

Dr Zoe Leach OBE

NFU East Regional Director

Zoe joined the National Farmers’ Union in August 2023 and is the Regional Director for the East Region. This involves looking after NFU members’ interests from North Norfolk to West Sussex. 

Zoe’s passion is to ensure that members are properly represented and supported by the NFU, and in turn that they understand the significant benefits that being a member of such an incredible organisation brings.

Prior to joining the NFU, she worked for the National Pig Association from 2008 to 2022. She took on the role of Chief Executive Officer in 2014 and led the organisation through some very turbulent times.

This followed five years working in the Livestock Science Unit within Defra where she managed the research and development portfolio on livestock production.

Previous to that she ran a large pig rearing unit and trials facility for the integrated pig production company BQP in Suffolk. She gained a PhD in outdoor sow management and welfare with Cambac JMR Research in 1998.

Zoe has been awarded the OBE in the first King’s Birthday honours list. She was granted the honour in recognition of her services to the pig industry.

M

Aimee Mahony

Chief adviser (poultry), National Farmers' Union

Aimee joined the NFU as poultry adviser in 2016 following four years working in the egg sector for Noble Foods.

In 2019 Aimee was named the EPIC Young Poultry Person of the Year and eight months later was appointed NFU chief poultry adviser.

Aimee leads the NFU poultry team on a number of policy issues covering both the poultry meat and egg sectors and manages the national poultry board.

Christine Middlemiss CB

UK Chief Veterinary Officer, Defra

Since 2018 Christine has led the UK’s approach on numerous workstreams ranging from global animal health issues, biosecurity and disease risk management, and trade and market access agreements.

She has been instrumental in the government’s tireless efforts to manage the unprecedented ongoing outbreak of avian influenza in the UK.

 

Karen Morgan

Deputy Director, Department for International Trade

Karen is Deputy Director responsible for DIT's (Department for International Trade) agriculture food and drink team, leading on the Department’s support for exports and investment in this sector. She has a background in trade, environment and agriculture policy and negotiations.

Karen’s previous roles included establishing DIT’s new Scotland team during 2021, leading the policy and secretariat work for the independent Trade and Agriculture Commission in 2020 -2021, and Covid supply chain roles in both Defra and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office during 2020.

Karen was the UK Government’s first overseas Agriculture Counsellor in the British Embassy Beijing from 2015-2018 and led the UK’s participation in the Beijing International Expo in 2019.

Prior to this she held a number of roles in Defra spanning environment, marine, water, international development and UN environmental governance.

James Mottershead

NFU Poultry Board chair (West Midlands member)

James is a broiler producer from Shropshire and produces his own feed rations through on farm home mixing, feeding his birds a mash-based diet.

Aside from poultry, the family business farms 1000 acres of arable, has a 1MW biomass boiler system, a 1MW biomass CHP system, 500KW solar PV arrays and a 500KW wind turbine.

James is the current chair of the NFU Poultry Industry Programme and was previously co-opted to the board as a PIP representative which ensures the voice of younger members is well represented. He is keen for the board to address issues surrounding labour shortages and rising costs of production and believes these are some of the industries main priorities.

O

Michael Oakes

NFU Dairy Board chair (2016-2024)

A tenant farmer on the southern outskirts of Birmingham, Michael milks a closed herd of 180 pedigree Holsteins.

Milk is sold to Arla, with surplus heifers sold at calving.

Michael has held various roles within the NFU, as Worcestershire county chair, West Midlands regional board chair and council delegate. Michael has been on the NFU Dairy Board for nearly 14 years; two as vice chair and almost 8 as chair. He was re-elected to serve his fourth term as chair in March 2022. 

Michael believes strongly in farmer collaboration, as well as improving the mechanics of the supply chain and is keen to improve relationships between farmers, processors and end users, whilst continuing to build consumer support for the industry.

R

Verity Richards

Dairy policy specialist, National Farmers' Union

Verity has been with the NFU for nearly eight years, starting on the graduate scheme before originally joining the dairy team back in 2017.

She spent three years working for the British Agriculture Bureau as a European policy adviser in Brussels, representing the UK Farming Unions through the Brexit transition and helping to build new trading relationships with the EU.

Re-joining the NFU's dairy team in the summer of 2022, Verity works closely with the National Dairy Board on areas such as exports and trade, air quality, farmer representation and helps to manage supply chain relationships.

She studied political science at Exeter University and grew up on a mixed arable and livestock farm on the Herefordshire border.

Tim Rooke

NFU Potato Policy Group chair | NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board vice chair

Tim was elected as chair of the NFU Potato Policy Group in 2022. He is a third generation farmer who grows 600 acres of processing and crisping potatoes in Ryedale, North Yorkshire.

He farms in partnership with his brother and has a mixture of tenanted and owned farms. He also grows wheat, oats, and oilseed rape.

Previously, he has been a member of United Potato Farmers Limited, a director of Alpha Group, and member of the AHDB potatoes marketing group.

S

Michael Sly

NFU Sugar Board 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.

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.

The Rt Hon Sir Mark Spencer MP

Minister of State for Farming, Fisheries and Food (Defra)

Mark Spencer was appointed Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in September 2022.

He was previously Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons from February 2022 to September 2022, before which he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Chief Whip) between July 2019 and February 2022. He was elected Conservative MP for Sherwood in May 2010.

Before entering Parliament, Mark was Chairman of the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs as well as a District and County Councillor.

He studied at Shuttleworth Agricultural College before joining the family farm business, which now employs around 50 people. He is still a local farmer and businessman, growing the produce which is sold in the farm shop.

The Rt Hon Sir Keir Starmer MP

Leader of HM Official Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party

Prior to becoming an MP, Keir was a human rights lawyer. He co-founded Doughty Street Chambers in 1990, and conducted cases in a wide range of international courts, including the European Court of Human Rights.

In 2008 Keir was appointed Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Head of the Crown Prosecution Service for England and Wales, a role he held until 2013. Keir studied law at Leeds University and St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and has published several books including Three Pillars of Liberty: Political Rights and Freedoms in the UK (1996) and European Human Rights Law (1999).

Keir was first elected as the MP for Holborn and St Pancras in 2015. He lives in the constituency with his wife and two children and is an avid Arsenal fan.

T

Paul Tompkins

NFU Dairy Board chair

Paul and his wife, Rachael, farm a herd of 400 pedigree Holsteins, supplying Paynes Dairies in the Vale of York.

Not from a farming background, Paul worked in the financial sector before meeting his wife and joining the family dairy business.

Paul joined the national Dairy Board in 2017 as an appointee before being elected as the North East representative. He has served nearly four years as Vice chair in total.

Paul is enthusiastic about educating people of all ages about dairy farming and is keen to continue developing relationships with milk processors and other farmer representatives to ensure a joined-up industry approach to future farm policy.

Paul believes a fair and transparent supply chain is critical if dairy farmers are to meet the demands of a quickly changing society. He also works hard to ensure the dairy sector is represented throughout the supply chain and at government level so dairy farmers can make the most of future opportunities and have a bright and prosperous future.

W

Derek Wilkinson

NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board member

Derek was vice chair of the NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board between 2018 and 2024. He is Managing Director of Sandfields Farms Ltd (part of The Shropshire Group).

He is Managing Director of Sandfields Farms Ltd (part of the G’s Group), growing over 1600ha of salads and vegetables for the major retailers, plus a West Africa farm business in Senegal which produces over 400 ha of winter salads for the UK and EU market.