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Farmers urged to make a more convincing case during election debates

PUBLISHED: 11:20 22 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:55 22 November 2019

NFU president Minette Batters (second from right) spoke to farmers during a visit to the Holkham estate. She is pictured with, from left, the estate's conservation manager Jake Fiennes, director of farming Poul Hovesen and farm manager James Beamish. Picture: Brian Finnerty

NFU president Minette Batters (second from right) spoke to farmers during a visit to the Holkham estate. She is pictured with, from left, the estate's conservation manager Jake Fiennes, director of farming Poul Hovesen and farm manager James Beamish. Picture: Brian Finnerty

Brian Finnerty

Norfolk farmers were urged to champion the needs of their industry during the general election campaign as a senior industry leader visited the county.

NFU president Minette Batters (second from right) spoke to farmers during a visit to the Holkham estate. She is pictured with, from left, the estate's conservation manager Jake Fiennes, farm manager James Beamish and director of farming Poul Hovesen. Picture: Brian FinnertyNFU president Minette Batters (second from right) spoke to farmers during a visit to the Holkham estate. She is pictured with, from left, the estate's conservation manager Jake Fiennes, farm manager James Beamish and director of farming Poul Hovesen. Picture: Brian Finnerty

Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers' Union, spoke to around 30 farmers at the annual meeting of the NFU's North Norfolk branch, before taking a tour of the Holkham estate, including its £1.5m new cattle sheds.

"The discussion was very much focused on the election and the NFU's manifesto, and getting members primed to ask candidates the questions that really need to be asked - starting with getting Brexit done right, ensuring we leave in an orderly manner," she said.

"But the main 'ask' is making sure we get a commitment on standards. It is not just about food safety, it is important for animal welfare and environmental protection that we ask for foods imported into this country to be produced to the same standards that we meet here.

"Here in Norfolk you have got everything going on. It is the capital of agriculture. It impacts on every single sector.

"So they need to make the point that consumers really want to maintain environmental protection and animal welfare standards as part of our trading relationships, but we cannot allow foods to be imported with standards that would be illegal for farmers in Norfolk to achieve.

"That is the conversation they need to be having with candidates - getting that fundamental commitment from all parties that this will sit at the heart of any future trade agreement. This is the most important thing to get right."

Richard Savory, who farms at Gateley near Fakenham, was elected as the NFU North Norfolk branch chairman at the meeting.

He said: "It is very important influence the candidates in the election on how important agriculture is, and also there is this big political push about carbon reduction at the moment, so they must be reminded that we are carbon soakers as well as emitters. We have ambitions to be carbon neutral and farmers are in the best position to achieve that, but we need help to do it.

"Agriculture is a such a long-term, thing we cannot just turn on the tap. We seem to run from crisis to crisis and it would be great to have a long-term food strategy. The Agriculture Bill should help with that, but no-one is talking about it. People still need to have food on their plates and we need to get that back into the public perception."

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