The meeting was held at a farm managed by Mr Buckingham at Framsden, near Stowmarket, as a follow-up to the council’s vote in support of Suffolk’s farmers and growers.
At Suffolk County Council’s full council meeting in October, the authority passed the motion to ensure all catering at council-organised events is, where possible, sourced from local farmers, committing to always including meat and dairy options alongside plant-based produce.
Councillors said they would also explore other ways the council can support Suffolk’s farmers and have now met with NFU Suffolk Chair Andrew Blenkiron, his deputy Glenn Buckingham and Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks to put the NFU at the heart of those discussions.
Importance of buying local
Topics discussed during the meeting included sourcing local food, flooding, rural crime and the council’s farming estate.
Mr Blenkiron said: “It was great to meet the council leader on farm. He was engaged and interested in the issues.
“We need to continue that engagement with the county council and to ensure our voices are heard.
“We are pleased the council voted to source local food. We now need to see what else can be done.
“We want the council to continue to push for local sourcing as much as possible.”
NFU Suffolk Chair Andrew Blenkiron
“Can they use their influence to ensure locally-sourced produce is served in schools, care homes, hospitals and prisons? We want the council to continue to push for local sourcing as much as possible.”
Other issues on the agenda included planning, infrastructure and National Grid’s plans for a 112-mile line of pylons across swathes of countryside from Dunston, near Norwich to Tilbury of the Thames Estuary, which are opposed by Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex county councils and have sparked widespread public opposition.
Mr Blenkiron called on the council to continue to support the county farms in the council’s farming estate and to keep pushing the concerns of rural communities over the big pylons project.
He also addressed flooding concerns, reiterating the NFU’s ask for long-term solutions: “We need the council to work with land owners and other organisations and to help farmers be part of the solution.
“The council can particularly help with highways and ensuring the infrastructure is in place to keep everyone protected.”
Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks said: “This was a good opportunity to discuss how vital farming is to Suffolk and how we can work together to remind people about the importance of buying local.
“We are proud to have brought this motion to full council and to emphasise the importance of farmers to Suffolk.”
The motion received widespread support across the council back in October, with councillors recognising Suffolk farmers’ work to produce high quality, healthy food while adhering to high standards of animal welfare, boosting the county’s economy, supporting the countryside and benefitting the environment.