Talking about the future, it’s easy to be reactive – we need to be progressive, said NFU President Minette Batters at a lunch for OFC’s 2019 Emerging Leaders. New Zealand and Ireland are doing it, the UK needs to do it too.
Ms Batters, who explained that when she first came to the Oxford Farming Conference 20 years ago that she never imagined she would be the president of the National Farmers Union, encouraged those in the room to enjoy the experience of the Oxford Farming Conference and go home inspired and view anything as possible.
The OFC’s Emerging Leaders, 30-45 year-olds with leadership potential who have been selected and sponsored by industry organisations to attend the conference, had an exclusive Q&A session with the NFU President.
Highlighting the three pieces of legislation that were going to bring seismic change to the industry – immigration, trade and agriculture – Ms Batters reiterated the importance of positive communications and called on the Emerging Leaders to take people with them.
“There are big bumps in the road but we need to be clear about what we want. We cannot go out whinging with a begging bowl – we’ve seen how that went for coal and steel. Taking people with you is what matters. Don’t expect everyone to agree, but be nice and be thoughtful when communicating with them.”
Ms Batters underscored food production as an essential aspect of the new agriculture bill and said she would be talking to Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove about it again tomorrow. She also emphasised the value of an agriculture bill that worked for all parties so it was not subject to alteration with every change of government.
“I wont be around to see it through in my current role but we can lay the foundations. Farming is a diverse mix and we wont please all of our 55,000 NFU members but we need to focus on the right thing for British agriculture.”
The Emerging Leader programme and lunch was sponsored by BASF. Michael Wagner, Business Director of Agricultural Solutions at BASF, said that despite the current trepidation amongst UK farmers to invest, in fact challenging times is an opportunity to plan and make a difference.
“We look into a future which may look different to our world today. The ‘lets wait and see attitude’ doesn’t work – this is a chance to look at the future differently and think how to innovate around it. It will separate those who will make a success from the rest.”
He went on to say that the UK has a good farming environment but more importantly has a strong aptitude for innovation.
“In certain areas we have to think about more complex and sophisticated new ways. Digital will change our world massively. Something close to my heart is that we do this together with more joint development. We can use expertise that we as a chemical company don’t have, and vice versa. The future of successful agriculture is working closer together, and we have seen the benefits of this in our Real Results Circle. It brings the data in early so we can innovate. The UK has a tremendous opportunity to be an innovation hub.”