Your man in Westminster Village

Faces of the Future highlights dynamic young people in farming. David Cousins talks to Terry Jones


Tucked away in a dignified square, the NFU’s London office is in the heart of what politicians call Westminster village and just a brief bike ride from the Houses of Parliament. If you lobbed a potato high in the air it would almost certainly land on the well-coiffed head of an MP.


Terry Jones, the man in charge of this vital outpost of Britain’s best-known farmer organisation, hasn’t been driven to lob potatoes, but he does have impeccable agricultural credentials and a firm farming handshake.


His grandparents were farmers in Breconshire, but moved south to Monmouthshire in 1926. “So I am a proper Welshman,” he laughs. The 80ha (200-acre) family farm, set in a beautiful valley between Usk and Abergavenny, majors in sheep and arable, though it’s the busy caravan site that is the financial backbone of the business.


Emerging from Reading University in 1995 with a degree in Rural Resource Management (aka agricultural economics), he knew he wasn’t quite ready for a life of hands-on farming.


“I’m a bit terrifying to be with when it comes to agricultural machinery – When I was 13 I managed to hit the only tree in the field with the tractor when I was rolling. I think I had the radio on too loud.”


Instead he went to work for commodities giant Cargill (60,000 employees), buying grain and selling seed and fertiliser in Dorset and Wiltshire for five years. Then to a tiny (two employees) Hereford firm called Welgro that provided seed, agronomy and contract advice for growers producing potatoes for McCains.  


The shift to the post of NFU marketing adviser in 2002 marked something of a change in direction. “In essence all the jobs that I had done up until then had been trading ones. Now, I thought, here’s a chance to take my agri-food knowledge and apply it.”


Since 2005 he has been Head of the London Office. Though there are only six staff here, they have a key role lobbying politicians and representing NFU members at the many stakeholder meetings organised by government departments.


Doesn’t this require him to have an impossibly broad knowledge of every single aspect of the agricultural industry? “Well, yes, one meeting can be about polytunnels, the next about gypsies and travellers and then another on bovine TB,” he says. But he’s obviously good at taking a brief.


He’s also the man you call when there’s a crisis. Last month’s avian flu outbreak in North Wales, for instance, saw him putting the farming side of things at daily crisis management meetings that involved everyone from the police to exotic disease specialists.


Because most national media organisations are based in London, he’s also getting very used to being at the sharp end of a TV camera.


He’s plainly an affable and articulate talker who can explain complex farming issues in simple language, essential skills for someone who gets called on to provide opinions on milk prices, lifting the beef ban and the pros and cons of changing British Summer Time, all in the space of a few hours.


Does he think farmers are beginning to win the PR battle? He pauses: “I think we’re doing it better but we need to do it differently as well. Things like rolling news and websites mean there are more opportunities to put over a positive message but we’re up against some very switched-on lobbying organisations.”


He looks at his watch. He’s on Channel 4 news at 12.15pm, countering claims by a vegan pressure group that climate change could be reversed if people stopped eating meat, fish and dairy products. There will probably be another interview after that and then another. It’s a tough job, but he seems to relish it…


Terry Jones (33)



* Degree in rural resource management from Reading University

* IGD postgraduate diploma in food and grocery industry management

* Worshipful Company of Farmers Challenge of Rural Leadership course, Plymouth


* Grain buying and seed/fert selling with Cargill

* Helping potato farmers to meet McCain specs

* NFU, several roles but head of London office since 2005



* Helping the family establish their successful caravan park

* Setting up London NFU office in new building

* Appearing live on Channel 4 news with Jon Snow (‘such a nice bloke’)


















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