NFU Conference 2014: Floods crisis to dominate NFU conference agenda

Flooding will dominate the agenda at the upcoming NFU annual conference in Birmingham this week.

Paul Leinster, chief executive of the Environment Agency, is due to address farmers on the flooding crisis on day two of the conference (Wednesday 26 February).

And he is certain to come under fire from angry farmers who have seen their businesses flooded out and blame the agency for poor maintenance of our rivers.

In January, Dr Leinster pledged his agency would look at ways of reducing red tape and bureaucracy so farmers could maintain watercourses on their land. A pilot farmer dredging scheme is under way .

However, the dredging scheme, although welcomed by many farmers, has come to late to save thousands of acres from devastating flooding this winter following the wettest winter on record.

Farmers will be keen to know what action the Environment Agency will be taking to prevent future flooding disasters.

DEFRA secretary Owen Patterson and farm minister George Eustice are also scheduled to speak at the conference. They too will likely face questions about the government’s slow response to the floods.

The theme of backing the business of British farming will be rolled out over two days with high-profile speakers such as Justin King, chief executive of Sainsbury’s; Kevin Grace, commercial director at Tesco; and Sir Lockwood Smith, High Commissioner for New Zealand.

This will look at the importance of agriculture to the British economy and highlight the need for the government to put farming at the centre of its economic policy-making.

Outgoing NFU president Peter Kendall will open the conference on Tuesday 25 February for the last time after eight years in the role.

His successor, plus the NFU’s new deputy and vice-presidents will be announced after elections on day two (Wednesday).

Read more on the NFU elections