CLA President Mark Tufnell was among the headline speakers at the East of England Farming Conference which returned to the East of England Showground, Peterborough in mid-November.
The theme of the sixth conference was ‘Greener and Leaner – growing resilience in a changing landscape’. Chaired by Joe Stanley, author, conservationist and Head of Training & Partnerships at the GWCT Allerton Project, the first morning session on ‘Policy and Leadership’ opened with Lord Curry of Kirkharle, crossbench peer in the House of Lords.
Lord Curry, who outlined the differences between the current agricultural policy and the post-war years said: “The post-war agricultural policy was singularly focused on producing food, with zero food waste, where any food not eaten in the house was fed to the house pig or chickens to produce food in a different way – the concept of a circular economy is not a new one.”
Lord Curry continued to challenge the conference to help present the sector as the exciting industry that it is to attract the very best, with initiatives such as Farmer Time and the East of England Agricultural Society’s education initiative, Kids Country, helping to engage young people.
Mark Tufnell, farmer and President of the Country, Land and Business Association (CLA), reinforced Lord Curry’s message of prioritising high quality food production alongside stewardship of the land:
“At its heart, Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) is right, we should be rewarded for stewardship, but too often there is a false narrative that we must reject making money growing food for this nation in order to do so, but I believe that we can do both.
“I believe that we can run profitable businesses, feed the nation, and care for the countryside, but only with the right business environment and agricultural policy from the government, “ Mr Tufnell concluded.
This was reinforced by the morning’s final speaker, AB Agri’s Head of Commercial Responsibility, Jen Butcher, who said: “ELMS can be more ambitious than paying farmers to plant hedges; within the next decade we have the technical capacity to have the first net zero dairy farm here in the UK, this is 100% achievable if we incentivise the planting of peas and beans here in the UK through ELMS rather than import soya from South America. We are already part of the way there with ELMS cover crop options, we just need the next step.”
The East of England Farming Conference returns for its seventh year in 2023 – Thursday 16th November 2023.