Norfolk’s food producers are facing another "agricultural revolution" with major changes ahead, according to the county's new farming leader.

Tim Papworth will formally become chairman of the Norfolk branch of the National Farmers' Union (NFU) next week.

He said new ways of funding agriculture after the post-Brexit phase-out of EU subsidies, new environmental schemes, and the drive towards "net zero" greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 are among the factors driving change for farming.

"Norfolk, and the East Anglia region, are the breadbasket of the UK and there are a lot of high-value, productive businesses here," he said. "It’s going to be an interesting time and they will be facing a lot of change."

The Papworth family's farming and contracting business has been based at Felmingham, near North Walsham, since 1926. It grows cereals, oilseeds, potatoes, peas and other crops, alongside rearing livestock for its butchers' shops.

Eastern Daily Press: Farming operations at LF Papworth in north Norfolk - Picture: Kit PapworthFarming operations at LF Papworth in north Norfolk - Picture: Kit Papworth (Image: Kit Papworth)

“I have worked for the family firm all my life, during which the farming business has seen some dramatic changes, including a large increase in contract farming arrangements,” said Mr Papworth. 

“When I started, we grew a lot of crisping potatoes and now we don’t grow any. Our potato production covers the chipping, processing, fresh and salad sectors, but it’s mainly salad potatoes."

He believes the livestock side of the business will increase in importance, especially with the rising cost of fertiliser. 

“Farmyard manure is now more valuable," said Mr Papworth. "We have other farmers’ sheep grazing here but I would not rule out having our own again. We have sugar beet tops and rye grass that the sheep can feed on, and it’s good for the soil structure." 

Eastern Daily Press: Norfolk farmer Tim Papworth is the new county chairman for the National Farmers' Union - Picture: Adam FradgleyNorfolk farmer Tim Papworth is the new county chairman for the National Farmers' Union - Picture: Adam Fradgley (Image: Exposure Photography)

Mr Papworth became involved with the NFU after he was one of two people selected from the UK to attend a potato industry leadership course in the USA.

He was also the first chairman of the NFU’s potato forum and chairs the NFU’s regional horticulture and potato board.

“I’m really excited to be taking over as county chair. I feel I have enough knowledge about how the NFU works to help me,” he said.

“There’s a great staff resource there, and I know how everything works. I’m looking forward to helping farmers in Norfolk succeed and to fight their corner. I’m not frightened to stand up and say what I think.” 

During his tenure as Norfolk chairman, Mr Papworth is keen to champion the importance of home-grown produce, including the need to secure water for food production.

Eastern Daily Press: Crop irrigation at LF Papworth in north Norfolk - Picture: Kit PapworthCrop irrigation at LF Papworth in north Norfolk - Picture: Kit Papworth (Image: Kit Papworth)

He is a committee member of the Broadland Agricultural Water Abstractors Group (BAWAG), a member of the UK Irrigation Association.

He also wants to highlight health and safety issues, after he suffered a serious injury in 2010, when he fell off a ladder while changing a light bulb in a rented potato store.

He was airlifted to Addenbrooke's Hospital, where he spent five weeks in a drug-induced coma. He now raises money for East Anglian Air Ambulance and has trained as a mental health first aider. 

“I had significant mental health issues when I was recovering from the accident. I had my family to support and I was really worrying about earning enough money to survive,” he said.

“It’s so important to talk about mental health and it’s good to see more farm businesses training employees as mental health first aiders.” 

Mr Papworth is married to Emma and they have three children - Jack, 25, Polly, 22 and Daisy 17.

Away from the farm he is involved in community work, including as life vice president to North Walsham Young Farmers' Club, a parish councillor and a director of the Clan Trust.