See our news stories below
AICC Conference Industry Day - Minette calls for a united voice in the industry
18 January 2021
United voice and hypocrisy purge key to vibrant UK grains sector
A common voice on future policy and eliminating the hypocrisy on grain standards will be key to a vibrant UK grains sector post-Brexit, according to NFU president Minette Batters.
After four years of wrangling, the prospect of the UK crashing out the EU with no-deal was finally taken off the table on Christmas eve, as the two parties agreed a tariff- and quota-free trade deal.
It was a major relief for UK farming, with most sectors – including grain production – relying on frictionless trade with the bloc of 27 European countries for profitable exports.
Speaking at the first virtual Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC) annual technical event last week, NFU president Minette Batters told over 200 delegates that getting a deal was essential in protecting these market opportunities.
And while the deal isn’t perfect – AHDB estimate that producers will have to contend with 4-8% addition export costs – it avoided the immediate disaster that some predicted if negotiations failed.
Throughout the Brexit process, Ms Batters said agriculture managed to get its voice heard effectively, not only influencing the trade deal, but also the recent Agriculture Act passed late in 2020.
Part of the act ensures greater transparency in future trade negotiations and ensures parliament has time to scrutinise and hold the Government to account on its manifesto pledge to uphold food standards.
“We knew from very early on that you are not going to have our voice being heard unless we could unite an unprecedented coalition.
“That was why we brought all four farming unions together into a group that I chair, so we could speak as one voice,” she said.
In addition to unions, other farming groups, NGOs, animal welfare and consumer groups and chefs from across the UK were also included, along with more than one million signatories on a petition to uphold food standards of produce coming into the UK.
Ms Batters suggested that the arable sector now needs to do the same if future policy is going to be shaped to its advantage, particularly with some potential minefields on the horizon in the next five years.
A very mixed public and farmer reaction to the recent Emergency Approval of a neonicotinoid seed treatment in sugar beet and the consultation on the use of gene editing are examples of why this united voice is needed to present a clear vision and educate and inform people with facts.
“We came so close to losing the whole sugar beet sector, which is an incredibly important part of a rotation [for many farms].
“The emergency approval will help build the bridges to the opportunities [that technology like] gene editing might bring, but we aren’t going to get there overnight,” said Ms Batters.
Environment v food
She added that for pesticide use and gene editing, any public debate usually morphs into “food vs environment”, but both are intrinsically linked and must be balanced in order to shape a sustainable arable sector in the UK.
Crop protection products are key to integrated pest management (IPM) strategies already being delivered by a world class crop protection advisory sector, led by AICC members.
Improved gene edited varieties have the potential to enhance these strategies, if approved, and can help in drive productivity and improve resource use efficiency, which Ms Batters says should be central to the sector’s future.
She has been pressing DEFRA minister George Eustace for a policy roadmap to navigate these upcoming challenges, all while trying to reach the goal of net zero food production by 2040.
“We’ve got to have a policy that backs it all up, works for farmers and enables them access to the tools that are needed. There also needs to be policy drivers for things that the market isn’t going to pay for.”
In addition to shaping the right policy and toolkit for a sustainable arable sector, Ms Batters added that the hypocrisy within UK grain markets has to end to enable the sector to flourish.
Significant tonnage is imported each year that has been produced to lower standards and in the case of milling wheat, it can make it into bread loaves wrapped in packaging emblazoned with a Union Jack flag.
This is leaving growers increasingly frustrated that their high standard produce doesn’t get the get the brand recognition it deserves through assurance schemes such as Red Tractor.
Ms Batters believes a reformed Red Tractor is still the right vehicle to deliver that brand recognition, perhaps taking inspiration from the Australian model that clearly labels bread packaging with the percentage of home grain grains used in its production.
Market research and retailers suggest that demand for home grown food increasing and with the UK climate ideal for grains production, the sector is in a strong position to maintain its market and build an export profile on quality, too.
“For this to succeed, our processing sectors must commit to eliminating the hypocrisy between domestic and imported grain.
“We have got to make sure that we avoid exporting our production, standards and our conscience and have absolute clarity and honesty about what our consumers are buying,” added Ms Batters.
Back to News
- June 2021
- May 2021
- March 2021
- February 2021
- January 2021
- December 2020
- November 2020
- October 2020
- September 2020
- August 2020
- June 2020
- May 2020
- April 2020
- March 2020
- February 2020
- January 2020
- December 2019
- November 2019
- October 2019
- September 2019
- June 2019
- May 2019
- April 2019
- March 2019
- February 2019
- January 2019
- December 2018
- November 2018
- October 2018
- May 2018
- April 2018
- February 2018
- November 2017
- October 2017
- June 2017
- May 2017
- March 2017
- January 2017
- December 2016
- November 2016
- September 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
Interested? Get in touch
We are here to help, engage & listen
FARMERS: Are you seeking truly transparent advice? Are you concerned about input spend? Contact us to find a crop consultant near you who only has one margin in mind – yours!
CONSIDERING MEMBERSHIP OF AICC? Contact us for details of how to apply and the criteria required. Join the largest group of independent agronomists in Europe and benefit from all it has to offer.
INDUSTRY PARTNERS: Would you like to reach 48% of the UK advice Market through our members? Exhibit at our national conference each year? Get in touch for more information on how to.
CONSIDERING A CAREER IN INDEPENDENT AGRONOMY: See our AICCA page
Become a member
AICC is the largest group of independent crop consultants in Europe and aims to continue to enhance its professional recognition throughout the agricultural industry, promote the interests of its members and encourage all truly independent crop consultants to become members.Apply