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Norfolk Farming Conference will focus on positive opportunities in a changing landscape

PUBLISHED: 06:52 07 February 2019 | UPDATED: 07:55 07 February 2019

The 2019 Norfolk Farming Conference will look for positive opportunities in a challenging farming landscape. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The 2019 Norfolk Farming Conference will look for positive opportunities in a challenging farming landscape. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

Amid the shifting sands of politics and the uncertainties of Brexit, Norfolk farmers will be urged to focus on the positive opportunities of the future at a major conference in Norwich today.

AF Group chief executive Jon Duffy. Picture: Denise BradleyAF Group chief executive Jon Duffy. Picture: Denise Bradley

Hundreds of farmers will gather at the John Innes Centre Conference Centre for the Norfolk Farming Conference – an event which has become a centrepiece of the county’s agricultural calendar, hosting debates with senior policy-makers and industry leaders.

This year’s theme of Defining the Future aims to go beyond the immediate concerns over trade, subsidy support and environmental regulation, and look ahead to the “enormous” business opportunities available to resilient, focused and competitive farm businesses.

The event will be chaired by Guy Smith, deputy president of the National Farmers’ Union, and introduced by Jon Duffy, chief executive of conference organisers AF Group (formerly Anglia Farmers).

Mr Duffy said: “Agriculture has got a huge amount to offer, regardless of what is happening in the short-term around the Agriculture Bill and Brexit.

“It will obviously have an impact, but it does not stop the potential of the opportunities going forward, or the need for professional, passionate agriculture.

“We are part of a global market place, where we are still going to have to feed 10bn people. So the opportunities for dynamic, well-resourced Norfolk agriculture are enormous.

“We want the conference to focus on these opportunities, rather than navel-gazing.

READ MORE: Norfolk goat’s cheese maker says Brexit could help him compete with French imports

“Of course we will talk about Brexit and the EU and I am sure there will be lots of questions about that. But what this allows us to do is look through some of the fog of the things that are happening now, and if we can get ourselves to the position where we are fit and agile, and able to deal with opportunities, then the opportunities will be there.”

The conference will include an international perspective from US farmer Corey Holmes, and the afternoon session will focus on Norfolk agriculture’s “Next Generation”.

“I love the afternoon session, where we get people coming in with a clear view on where their future can be,” said Mr Duffy. “They are not restrained by history and all the downsides that can build up when they get older. It is wonderful shot in the arm of optimism.”

FULL CONFERENCE LINE-UP

Session One: The Future Political Landscape

• Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).

• Sir John Beddington, former government chief scientific adviser.

• George Freeman, Mid Norfolk MP and chairman of the Conservative Policy Forum

Session Two: New Market Opportunities

• Andrew Saunders, director of Tulip Agriculture and managing director of Dalehead Food

• Corey Holmes, a US farmer’s son from Bloomington, Illinois

• Andrew Fearne, professor of value chain management at Norwich Business School, UEA

Session Three: Opportunities at Norfolk’s Land-based College

• Jane Townsend, principal of Easton and Otley College

Next Generation

• George Crane, PhD student working on how cover crops can influence diversity and abundance of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF)

Sam Steggles, goat’s cheese producer, Fielding Cottage

• Jonathan Skinner, from a mixed family farming business near Watton

• For more details, see the Norfolk Farming Conference website.

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