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East Anglia Future 50

Farming figurehead praises the agricultural enthusiasm at the Royal Norfolk Show

PUBLISHED: 17:06 27 June 2018 | UPDATED: 17:06 27 June 2018

National Farmers' Union president Minette Batters at the 2018 Royal Norfolk Show. Picture: Chris Hill.

National Farmers' Union president Minette Batters at the 2018 Royal Norfolk Show. Picture: Chris Hill.

Archant

The farming industry’s national figurehead praised the quality of the livestock and the enthusiasm of the rural community at the Royal Norfolk Show.

Minette Batters, the president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) visited the show after travelling from London, where she had an “encouraging” meeting with prime minister Theresa May on Tuesday.

She discussed industry concerns with leading Norfolk farmers and toured the livestock rings where record numbers of the region’s best cattle, pigs and sheep were being judged.

“Every show is always ‘the best show’,” she said. “But what is special about this one is they have got nearly 1,000 cattle and, while other parts of the country have less livestock because of TB [bovine tuberculosis] or other problems, this show has got more beef, sheep and pigs and it is wonderful to see such a high quality of livestock, and a growing number of it, at the Royal Norfolk Show.

“It is quite refreshing to see so much enthusiasm here when it is more depressing in other areas across the country which have more cattle.

“To get 90,000 people at a show like this says a lot, and it shows this rural county is backing its agricultural show.”

Ms Batters said her previous engagement with the prime minister was a “really positive meeting”, which included a discussion about environment secretary Michael Gove’s proposals to phase out direct farm subsidies after Brexit in favour of using public money to reward “public goods” such environmental work.

She said: “She [Theresa May] has a good grasp of the agriculture and horticulture sector. I told her we wanted to see a world-class industry, not a national park suspended in aspic for all time. She took that on board.

“I said the area we are not addressing enough at the moment is volatility which, at the end of the day, is why agriculture is supported, to protect it from market failure and to ensure food prices are consistent. She showed a good understanding of that challenge.

“Farmers are doing the bulk of the work and carrying the bulk of the risk and the cost. That really does need to be addressed if we are stepping back from farm support.”

Ms Batters said the key concern among farmers at the Royal Norfolk Show was business uncertainty.

“They are all fed up with waiting and bickering,” she said. “They want to know what the plan is.

“There has been a diversity of opinion here. A lot of people are embracing the opportunities and some are very nervous about what lies ahead.

“Farmers are a pretty resilient bunch and they are used to evolving. There is definitely going to be a change and it is a question of whether they are going to get on the train and embrace that change.”

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