‘Keep with the positives’, farmers’ leader urges

Minette Batters, deputy president of the National Farmers' Union addresses the Suffolk Annual Count

Minette Batters, deputy president of the National Farmers' Union addresses the Suffolk Annual County Meeting of the NFU. - Credit: Lucy Taylor

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) deputy president Minette Batters urged Suffolk’s farmers to “keep with the positives” at an event this month.

Minette Batters, deputy president of the National Farmers' Union will address the Suffolk Annual Co

Minette Batters, deputy president of the National Farmers' Union will address the Suffolk Annual County Meeting of the NFU. - Credit: Lucy Taylor

Mrs Batters was addressing the NFU’s members’ annual county meeting at Stowmarket on November 5, as part of a whistlestop tour of the region.

She told delegates that the industry needed the NFU right now more than it had ever needed it before.

“We have a fantastic and vibrant industry,” she said. “There are huge challenges, but massive opportunities.”

While recognising there were challenges ahead, she said: “Ultimately we have got to keep with the positives.”

Minette Batters, deputy president of the National Farmers' Union will address the Suffolk Annual Co

Minette Batters, deputy president of the National Farmers' Union will address the Suffolk Annual County Meeting of the NFU. - Credit: Lucy Taylor

She told farmers there had been “a lot of hype about: ‘Gosh, you are woman’” when she was first elected earlier this year, “but luckily that whole thing has died down now” and went on to outline a number of the key issues for farmers.

There were worries about slippage and whether the Government’s new IT system would be ‘fit for purpose’ when it came to implementing the new Common Agricultural Policy. But meanwhile, the modulation rate, or the amount of farming subsidy transferred from farmers’ direct payments to fund environmental and rural growth schemes, had been kept down through the NFU’s efforts, and this was “a great achievement on behalf of the NFU”, she said.

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“It’s a hell of a lot better than it could have been,” she said.

Mrs Batters explained that she was on the London Food Board and “would absolutely stick with it”. It contained big policy influencers in the capital, she said. and the boards could be rolled out across the rest of Britain.

Farmers were working hard on the environmental side, such as through pollinator strips next to crop fields, but it was not realistic to expect improvements to occur without their intervention, she argued.

“You can’t just make space for nature,” she said.

She recalled a set-aside field from her youth: “It was a wilderness. There was nothing in it. There was no wildlife in it, there were no birds in it.”

Without farming and grazing animals “we would change our whole biodiversity and environmental outcomes”, she said.

Government needed to “fit round the fabric” of British agriculture, and not vice-versa, she argued.

Farming policy must be guided by science, she said, as she touched on the effects of the TB outbreak, which had not so far spread to the east. It needed to be kept at bay, she said.

She called on Suffolk farmers to build the economic argument for the farming sector, and also to do what they could get encourage young people into the industry.

“What you are producing in this county is a major part of the rural economy,” she said.

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