A team of young agriculturalists from Newcastle University are celebrating after winning a national debating competition in London.

Charlotte Flint and Aimee-Rose Sharp from Newcastle (pictured left with Jim Paice) met teams from the Royal Agricultural College, Reading University, Aberystwyth University, Easton College, Bishop Burton College and the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs for the second annual Young Advocates for Agriculture debating competition.

The teams went head to head to tackle some of the biggest topics in the industry, but it was Newcastle University who impressed the judges the most with their “elegant argument” opposing the motion “This house believes that global free trade is good for British Farming”.

Making up the judging panel were RASE chief executive Denis Chamberlain, political editor of the Mail on Sunday Simon Walters and last year’s winner, Angharad Evans. Farming minister Jim Paice also made an appearance to award the girls with their trophy.

“Our industry needs its advocates,” said Mr Paice, speaking at the event at Farmer’s and Fletcher’s Hall in Barbican, London. “We’ve always suffered because we don’t have enough people out there who can positively promote and explain what we’re doing, and some of those subjects you debated this afternoon do take some explaining.

“[In the future] there’s going to be the need for constant explanation otherwise our voice is dimmed by the much larger, louder voices of those who don’t fully understand or have some other perspective, so I really do congratulate all of you on what you’ve done today.”

Jim Williams, director of the National Farm Research Unit, founded the debate last year in a bid to encourage new voices to speak out in agriculture, and hopes it will put down roots to become a regular fixture in the farming calendar.

“Last year we held the final in a tent at Cereals – not an ideal venue for debating – but this year we’re a little bit more orderly,” he said.

“Frankly I’m a bit dismayed and tired by the coverage our industry gets by the wider media and the level of ignorance around the technology we’re using – whether it’s super dairies or GM. We’re trying to encourage a new philosophy amongst young agriculturalists. Instead of looking at their shoes, we want them to talk to the man in the town and be proud of what we’re doing.”