Newly elected NFU vice-president Tom Bradshaw says food production must remain at the heart of the UK’s agricultural policy as farmers look to a future outside the EU.
Producing and growing food was fundamental to farming, Mr Bradshaw said following his election as a senior NFU officeholder on Wednesday (26 February).
“Food production has to be a core part [of policy],” he told Farmers Weekly. “It is our raison d’etre as farmers and we have to make sure we drive that message home.”
Mr Bradshaw’s comments follow a week when the government confirmed further details of its plans to phase out direct payments to farmers over seven years, beginning in 2021.
It also shared more details of its planned Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme – due to be fully up and running by 2024.
The ELM scheme will reward farmers who undertake environmental measures – including encouraging public access to the countryside and climate change mitigation.
But the NFU has warned that farmers’ efforts to look after the environment could be undermined by cheap imports of food produced using methods that are illegal in the UK.
It wants legal guarantees that shipments of chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef will not be allowed into the country under any trade deal.
In his previous role as NFU combinable crops chairman, Mr Bradshaw campaigned against imports of oilseed rape and cereals produced using neonicotinoid seed treatments.
Neonicotinoids are banned in the UK over concerns they damage bee populations.
Mr Bradshaw runs his family’s home farm at Fordham, near Colchester, alongside a contract farming business growing combinable crops across 1,450ha in north-east Essex.
He was originally co-opted on to the NFU’s combinable crops board to further the industry’s understanding and use of on-farm technologies such as GPS and soil mapping.
An experienced public speaker, he has completed a Nuffield scholarship researching soil fertility and fertiliser efficiency – and was the lead farmer in the BBC’s Harvest programme.
Mr Bradshaw said: “We have some really technical policy areas going on at the moment – and I am more than happy doing the public leadership stuff.
“But we have to get the technical detail right.”
The government’s net zero carbon ambition, its plant health strategy and clean air strategy were all policies which would have huge impacts on farm businesses, he said.
Net zero was an opportunity for farmers to be paid for storing carbon – but the NFU had to deliver the technical detail of how this would work for its members.
“I think it is that element – that sort of scientific background – that I can hopefully bring to the team and make sure we really do focus on that detail.”
As NFU vice-president, Mr Bradshaw will work alongside NFU president Minette Batters and NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts, who was previously the union’s vice-president.
The three officeholders would set their priorities together as a team, he said.
“It is going to be an amazing opportunity to work with Stuart and work with Minette – making sure we do gel as a team,” he added.
“We have to be realistic in our ambitions but there are going to be some opportunities – and in this time of change it is critical we look for those opportunities.
“There will be challenging times – I don’t think we can hide from that – but we have got to make sure we create those opportunities too.”