Sunday, 10 March 2013

Nuffield Pre Contemporary Conference - London

What a day we had yesterday (Friday 8th March), with a real mixed bag of presentations and discussion.  Our morning started with a walk from the Union Jack Club to the treasury where we were met by Brendan Bailey (Head of Structural Reform Branch).  The presentation he gave us was a mixed bag of slides telling the story of the main aspects that were important to the treasury, namely Policy Interest, Food Security, Economic and Financial costs, the change in food prices and Ag trade barriers.  One thing that was really drummed home to us was the massive competition from the far East and especially China and India.  We learnt that China and India produce 1/3 of the worlds grain.
Our second meeting (in three different rooms), was a fantastic presentation by Allan Wilkinson, Head of Agriculture at HSBC.  Allan’s presentation was engaging, knowledgable, thought provoking, challenging (he said it would be) and it got lots of discussion going.  These discussion continued through the day and into the evening.
After lunch we headed across to DEFRA, (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), not no Agriculture, where after security checks we headed upstairs for a meeting with Martin Nesbit (Director of European Union and International DEFRA).  Here we discussed, quite heatedly a range of subjects but mainly the implications of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the new measures that could potentially affect all of our farming businesses for the next 7 years.  The CAP in effect will be cut so farmers will be receiving less support in the future through direct payments (Pillar 1) or indirect environmental support payments (Pillar 2).  It was very interesting to hear and talk about how the UK farmers will be effected by some of the new measures more than some of our European farming cousins.  Following the meeting we even got mentioned in a tweet from Martin, which was actually rather pleasing!
After Martin we popped next door, literally, to meet up with Matthew Ward from the London National Farmers Union (NFU) Office and Peter Kendall  the NFU President.  Here we heard about the lobbying work that takes place on the industries behalf by the team in London (and Brussels).  ONe of the major points that came across from the afternoon meeting Peter was the need to continue of efforts in educating the general public, our customers about farming and engaging them to take more interest in their food production system, buy local and buy British. 
Another message we drew form the whole day was the lack of a joined up sustainable plan to take our Agricultural Industry forward, at a time when global food issues will start to affect our food supply, this was something that was not deemed important by one of our speakers today.  Food security is a global issue, not a UK issue and to me that opinion is flawed, shortsighted and arrogant.  A plan will need to be 20 years in duration, covering the whole industry from planning to public perception to the environment, bio-security, biodiversity, food supply chain issues and many others.  This strategy needs to be wide ranging; cover many governmental departments and should ultimately be steered by our government.

What a very challenging day it was.  Now it’s off to Heathrow for the flight to Toronto and the Contemporary Scholars Conference!

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