The Government needs impartial, practical guidance more than ever before, and with a fresh team at its helm the Agricultural Law Association is already gearing up to provide it.
The apolitical organisation, which represents agricultural lawyers, accountants, land agents and associated professions, responded to more than 12 government consultations last year, and is expecting to engage with Government and other industry stakeholders even more in the year ahead.
“We have a multi-disciplinary membership, so are ideally placed to offer independent analysis on new and proposed farming and environmental legislation,” said new chairman Alex Carson-Taylor. “We need to cut through the noise and make sure governments are fully aware of the implications of different policies, and pass on that knowledge and understanding to our members and their clients.”
Three new office holders have been elected to the Council, with Mr Carson-Taylor replacing outgoing chairman Philip Day. “We continue to build on the relationships we have developed with Defra and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments,” said Mr Day. “There is no doubt that these are extremely busy times preparing for the post-Brexit world and we are keen to play our part in the deliberations.”
Mr Carson-Taylor brings a true commercial angle to the leadership team, as an independent international trade and development specialist operating across the agri-food sector. He also holds professional qualifications in international trade and finance, operations management and agriculture.
Assuming the education officer role is Denise Wilkinson, replacing Eleanor Pinfold after nearly 30 years on Council. A partner at Cambridge-based solicitors Hewitsons, she acts for landed estates, farm owners and tenants across England and Wales, and was ranked as a leading individual in the Legal 500 in 2019.
“These are exciting times and we need to make sure we have very joined-up thinking across the different professions,” she explained. “We need to accommodate those changes at every level of professional development to remain relevant.”
Education plays a big part in the ALA’s remit; through its regional groups it organised training for over 500 members last year, and it now has 160 Fellows – the pinnacle of professional development and recognition in agricultural law.
This year the ALA will hold its first ever Starter for Ten course in Scotland – an entry-level course covering all aspects of agricultural and land law. “The England and Wales course is extremely popular but Scottish law is different and we need to reflect that,” said Mrs Wilkinson. In future there may be a specific Welsh option, and potentially the development of an intermediate course to bridge the gap between the existing Starters course and the Fellows.
Supporting Mr Carson-Taylor will be vice chair Dr Nerys Llewelyn Jones, managing partner at Agri Advisor – a specialist rural firm of solicitors and advisors based in Wales and Herefordshire. With a PhD in Sustainable Agriculture and Implementation, she is a regular speaker on CAP matters and an accredited mediator for agricultural, rural property and commercial disputes.