We need to fight for agriculture like never before, says farming leader
The new regional representative for East Anglia’s farmers says the need for a strong agricultural voice has never been greater as the industry faces an unprecedented series of challenges.
Norfolk farmer Tony Bambridge, who has become chairman of the National Farmers’ Union’s (NFU’s) regional board for East Anglia, said farming is going through a crucial period as it prepares for new trading conditions outside of the EU alongside new agriculture, environment and trade bills.
“Over the past 40 years, British farmers have been protected through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and helped by the strength of the farming lobby in France and other EU countries. Now it’s a completely different ball game,” he said.
“We need the NFU, like never before in my farming lifetime, to fight for agriculture, so it’s an exciting time to be at the centre of that within the region.”
Mr Bambridge is managing director of B&C Farming in Marsham, a farming and contracting business that specialises in growing seed potatoes. He previously served as NFU Norfolk county chairman before taking over as Norfolk delegate to the NFU’s council last year.
The regional board includes representatives from the six counties covered by NFU East Anglia, alongside the chairs of its commodity boards and forums. During the pandemic it has been meeting fortnightly online and Mr Bambridge believes this has brought some benefits.
“I think virtual meetings are here to stay,” he said. “I’ve been impressed with how much detail you can go into, not just with the meeting itself but also the discussions running alongside it using the written chat function.
“However, we are missing the social interaction that is an important part of face-to-face meetings so there will be a place for those as well, but probably less frequently than before.”
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Mr Bambridge succeeds Hertfordshire farmer Will Dickinson as chairman, for an initial two-year term. His new vice chairman is George Gittus, who farms at Little Saxham near Bury St Edmunds.
Mr Gittus said: “This is a pivotal time for the industry. There are major changes in the pipeline that will directly affect the agricultural sector which, up until now, has been largely steered from Brussels.
“We have to get the balance right between food production and environmental protection and ensure that farm businesses are profitable so they can deliver for both.”
He said farmers would need to embrace all the tools available in the years ahead, ranging from the best techniques used on organic farms to gene editing – and everything in between.
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