Delegates outline Oxford Conference’s key messages

The subjects that stand out at Oxford often turn out to be major talking points throughout the year. Farmers Weekly asked some of the delegates to identify their highlights

David Richardson“The conference provided the first opportunity for many to listen to Owen Paterson, the new DEFRA secretary of state. He knows our industry well. He was unequivocal in supporting new technology and sustainable production. He was strongly in favour of GM; determined to simplify farm policies and useless regulations; and adamant that the badger cull would go-ahead next summer. But his wish to abolish any aid not associated with the environment was not well received.

As NFU president Peter Kendall said: “After a year like we’ve just had thousands of farmers would be out of business without SFPs to buffer losses?” Weather like 2012’s is the reason subsidies were invented.”
David Richardson, Norfolk farmer and columnist

James Price“For me the high point of the Oxford Farming Conference has to have been Mark Lynas’ talk on “A Changing Perspective” with GM. I think everyone started listening harder when he described himself ripping up GM crops in years past, however, he then went on to give the most credible argument for growing GM crops I have ever heard.

Surely he should be a spokesman for our industry as he had an answer for every argument that has ever been put forward by anti-GM organisations?

I heard his applause described as the longest there has ever been at the conference.”
James Price, Perdiswell Farm, Woodstock, Oxfordshire

Alastair Brooks“Oxford always manages to mix all aspects of the agricultural industry in a totally seamless fashion. You witness the new entrants and up and coming scholars mixing with the leaders and captains of industry. This is particularly relevant with the publishing and presentation of this year’s OFC research report – The Value of Farming to Society – which highlights the role that all generations play in our industry, but more importantly in our wider society.

The research quantifies, in a number of different ways, how farming benefits the greater population. I feel that this research has been the highlight of this year’s conference, because it has captured almost every aspect of the benefits that we as farmers and agriculturalists strive to provide.”
Alastair Brooks, Waddesdon Farms, Buckinghamshire

“This year’s programme was spot-on for me with Mark Lynas’ lecture standing out as a highlight. He demonstrated the opportunity we have as an industry to educate the public on GM and the role agriculture plays in protecting the environment. As a scholar, sponsored by the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, I attended the McDonald’s workshop with the 50 other scholars.

We were very lucky to have Princess Royal join us to hear about the issues facing those entering the industry. It was great to hear the concerns of those in the same generation but also to hear Princess Anne’s take on our perspectives.”
Sally Wilson, Clackmae Farm, Scottish Borders

Caroline Drummond“Two key areas that really stood out were the importance of embracing modern technology and real innovation and how critical it is to communicate and engage with the general public. LEAF will continue to use initiatives like Open Farm Sunday to further increase public understanding of our industry – which can only be done with more farmers getting involved. Sign up now.”
Caroline Drummond, chief executive of Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF)


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