NFU24: Minette Batters looks ahead to NFU Conference

12 February 2024

Minette Batters

Minette Batters

Former NFU President

An image of Minette Batters, leaning against an office window

What can you expect from NFU Conference this year? NFU President Minette Batters talks you through who's speaking and the topics we'll be covering in our 'British Food: What plan for the future?' programme.

It seems as if a decade as an NFU officeholder has passed by with the blink of an eye. I can hardly believe that we are standing at the outset of my final NFU Conference. But who could have predicted the disruption and change that a decade would bring?

From Brexit to Covid, and the consequences of climate change and tragic armed conflict, our businesses have coursed an unpredictable and volatile path.

These events may have made our jobs harder, but they have ensured that those in power can no longer take food production for granted.

Political forecast

2024 is set to be a year of elections.

As farmers and growers know only too well, elections are important – they set the approach for governments, which have a profound impact on farming livelihoods and food security. It seems timely to focus the 2024 NFU Conference on politicians’ plans for British food.

Over the next two days I am expecting to hear how our politicians and regulators plan to secure a vibrant and profitable future for food production across the UK.

They must deliver affordable, safe, and wholesome food at all price points for all UK citizens.

They must deliver policies that allow farmers and growers to continue to steward the countryside, where food production and environmental care go hand-in-hand.

Finally, the retailers and those in the food chain must make sure fairer dealing builds a resilient financial partnership with UK farming.

Day one – timely address from government

We kickstart NFU24 with a political keynote and with a General Election on the horizon this couldn’t be timelier.

Conference will want to hear how celebrations of food and farming hosted by the current leaders will be turned into government-wide action. Members will then have a chance to pose their questions to our speaker.

We will then hear from Conference Alumni Jack Bobo who will look at British food in a global context.

When it comes to food the UK is not an island; we are part of a complex web of trade and seasonal production. It will be fascinating to hear his thoughts while in discussion with NFU Vice President David Exwood.

Our afternoon sessions will then focus on the future of British food, with panellists from the Food Standards Agency, UK Hospitality and The Institute of Grocery Distribution in conversation with NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw.

We will then shift the focus to regulation and environment.

Chair of the Environment Agency, Alan Lovell, will explain his vision for the agency as a modern regulator and how an advice-led approach may shift the dynamic between business and Agency to be one of partnership not antagonism.

The first day concludes with our traditional commodity breakout sessions. These are important sessions allowing you to meet and question national boards who represent NFU members to the many stakeholders who shape farmers’ future.

Day two – the political landscape in Britain's rural seats

We open on day two with Deltapoll Director Joe Twyman in conversation with NFU Director General, Terry Jones.

They will be examining what opinion polling can tell us about the public’s attitude to food, farming, and the environment. Joe is a founding Director of YouGov and commands a remarkable ability to read through data that will shape the coming General Election.

Keeping to the theme of a General Election, Sky TV’s political anchor Sophy Ridge will then chair hustings with representatives from Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat parties.

This will be their chance to set out their plans for the next Parliament. Will we see firm funding commitments? What weight for food production? Or perhaps a new relationship with the EU, our nearest and largest trading partner?

Finally, we close conference with a farmer panel session, often the most encouraging and anticipated session of all. Not only will we hear their personal stories but also their reaction to what they have heard at NFU Conference 2024.

When I look at the line-up in front of us for this year’s event, it’s understandable why NFU Conference is called the biggest event in the farming calendar, and I am extremely proud of the programme we have organised for you, our members.

I would conclude by alerting all conference delegates to take advantage of meeting our key sponsors and exhibitors who are on hand to discuss their business offers in Hall 3.

I wish you well and I hope that you find conference enjoyable and thought-provoking in equal measure.

Minette Batters
President, NFU


What's covered in our commodity sessions?

Shaping the future political landscape and creating a resilient future

What does sustainability look like for the red meat sector?

Combinable crops
Discussing the challenges and opportunities for sustainable protein in UK agriculture

Horticulture and potatoes
Setting the political agenda for UK horticulture

Setting the strategy that is fit for the future

Delivering Net Zero in the Sugar Beet Sector

See our Conference programme

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