Bradshaw to head up new NFU top team

Tom Bradshaw was elected president of the NFU this week, promising that profitable farming businesses would be his priority, while “forging ever-closer connections with NFU members on the ground”.

Mr Bradshaw was standing unopposed for the position of NFU president, replacing Minette Batters, who stood down after six years.

See also: Rishi Sunak unveils new support package for British farming

He was elected with 98.37% of the vote, and 1.63% against, by the 82-strong NFU council.

There had been discussion about some council delegates abstaining from the vote, to send a signal to Mr Bradshaw that he needed to continue working hard to maintain their support, but there were no abstentions in the end. 

Mr Bradshaw is joined on the top team by David Exwood, who was promoted from vice-president to deputy with 52.09% of the vote, and Yorkshire tenant hill farmer Rachel Hallos, who was elected vice-president, with 70% of the vote.

The two junior roles were hotly contested, with four candidates vying for deputy and five for vice-president.

The new top team will face a number of challenges outlined at the conference, including the fallout from the Red Tractor debacle, national food security, fairness in the food supply chain, disease pressures and the impact of extreme weather on farming, such as the recent flooding events.

The uncertainty surrounding future farm funding was a recurring theme, too.

During the second political session in Birmingham, Labour’s shadow farming minister, Daniel Zeichner MP, and the Liberal Democrats’ agriculture spokesman, Tim Farron, both criticised the Conservative government for failing to outline its funding plans for UK farming beyond the life of this parliament.

Farming minister Mark Spencer said Defra is building “a very credible argument” to take to the Treasury for the need to increase the current annual budget of £2.4bn in the next government.

“I am confident we can do that and we will be pitching very hard to increase that budget,” he insisted.

Mr Zeichner said a Labour government “will argue for as much money as we can for the agricultural budget”. However, he did not offer a figure.

NFU officeholders Rachel Hallos, Tom Bradshaw and David Exwood at NFU Conference

NFU’s officeholders, from left to right; Rachel Hallos, Tom Bradshaw and David Exwood © NFU

SFI balance

Defra secretary Steve Barclay told Farmers Weekly that the department is keeping its Sustainable Farming Incentive, the first component of the Environmental Land Management scheme, under review to see how it affects food production.

“It is something that Mark [Spencer] has been looking at closely in terms of the balance, as to whether there are some people who are putting the whole of their farm into certain environmental schemes,” he said.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak moved to allay concerns about any threat to national food security, by promising to publish an annual monitoring report on the matter.

Mrs Batters said it was also “massively significant” to secure an annual food security event, modelled on last year’s Farm to Fork summit at 10 Downing Street.

In her final speech to conference as president, Mrs Batters received a standing ovation from delegates. “It has been the privilege of my lifetime to represent you,” she said.