Challenging times ahead for farming, says incoming Norfolk NFU chairman Thomas Love
The new chairman of the Norfolk branch of the National Farmers' Union (NFU) says the county's farmers have some major challenges to face – but they are in good shape to tackle them.
Volatile prices, impassioned debates about farming's impact on the environment, and the over-arching challenge of producing more with less – that is the landscape welcoming the NFU's new county chairman for Norfolk.
But Thomas Love said he will be well equipped for the challenge when he formally takes over the role next week from the outgoing chairman, Shipdham dairy farmer Ken Proctor.
Mr Love farms about 2,000 acres between Walcott and Happisburgh, growing mainly cereals, vegetables and sugar beet.
Unlike his predecessor, he admits he is not a 'livestock man' – but he said his experience across all areas of arable operations put him in a good position to lead campaigns on topical issues affecting the county's growers.
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He said the implementation of major Common Agricultural Policy reforms, the potential banning of crop protection products, and ensuring farmers have a fair share of water resources for irrigation are three of the key challenges facing the industry.
'I'm proud to have been elected NFU county chairman and I'm optimistic for the future,' he said. 'I think that I'm involved in most of the issues affecting farmers, other than bovine TB, at the moment and I'm looking forward to the challenge of pushing Norfolk agriculture forward into profitability.
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'I think we are going to be in for a depressing time in the next two years, because all the commodity prices have dropped so drastically, so we need to concentrate on cutting our costs.
'Ken (Proctor) did a wonderful job and his humorous eloquence was always very welcome. His love was cows, but my love is arable. I think the NFU nationally needs to be encouraged in that direction, with all the problems that we have with the environmental lobby wishing to restrict so many of our practices.'
Mr Love's family has farmed on the east coast for 130 years. Walcott Farms' dairy herd was sold in 1978 and the business now grows potatoes, wheat, barley, sugar beet and peas, plus 15 acres of daffodils, with land also hired out for celery and spinach production. Mr Love said he was keen to hear Norfolk NFU members' concerns and to try to address them. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.