THE FUTURE of farming and engaging the next generation in the industry will dominate the agenda at one of the UK’s premier farming conferences taking place on Thursday 13 November. The event is being sponsored by the UK’s leading solar energy generator, Lightsource Renewable Energy.
‘Chewing the cud’ will be George Eustice MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for DEFRA, Allan Wilkinson, Head of Agriculture from HSBC, Minette Batters, NFU Deputy President and CLA President Henry Robinson.
Also in attendance will be three of the stars from the Channel 4 hit series, First Time Farmers. Ed Godsall, Robbie McGuffie and Katie Watts. The Channel 4 series was widely credited for drawing mainstream attention to the plight and difficulties facing the next generation of UK farmers.
Ed Godsall, who appeared in the documentary, farms at Moor Court in Stretton Grandison near Ledbury. Ed works alongside his dad Peter Godsall on their 600 acre mixed farm, mainly arable with cattle and sheep.
Speaking in advance of the Farming Conference, Ed said: “Over the last couple of years I have been fortunate enough to attend the Farming Conference, during which time I’ve seen it grow from strength to strength. As a young farmer, this year’s debate on 'Future, Farming, Finances’ is one that is very close to my heart and will ultimately have far reaching implications as I continue along my farming career path. The high profile speakers at this year’s conference look set to once again offer a valuable insight into the industry and will no doubt throw up some lively discussions.
“The industry finds itself in tough times as commodity prices have dipped. This however has not been reflected in the value of land which continues to rocket. Driven somewhat by the increase in renewable energy, as a young farmer, I am uncertain what the future holds; will my role as a farmer be to produce food or fuel? I’m sure that the speakers will be able to shed some light on the subject (pardon the pun). Whatever the future may hold, the next generation of famers are as passionate and driven as ever, and I feel lucky to be counted amongst them.”
The aim of this year’s Three Counties Farming Conference is to give a forum for farmers from Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire to thrash out the very real issues surrounding the future of farming and the difficulties the next generation may face.
Students from Hartpury College and Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester will be among the delegates at the conference, which is expected to attract hundreds of people.
Spokesman John Wilesmith, from Three Counties, said: “The next generation of farmers are facing a very tough slog. With land prices now in excess of £10,000 an acre and rental rates soaring, British farmers are facing stiff challenges for the immediate future. There is considerable uncertainty in the industry with depressed cereal and potato prices, milk prices in freefall and over production. With such poor returns, farmers face difficult choices as to how they plan for their future and for first time farmers there are big concerns.”
The Three Counties Farming Conference starts from 3.30pm on Thursday 13 November at the Three Counties Showground with an address by Lightsource Renewable Energy. Afternoon speakers include Dr. Louise Manning (Water: Managing a Vital Resource) and Jez Ralph (Maximizing Timber Value for Woodland Markets in England). The Evening Conference with the headline speakers, including George Eustice MP and CLA President Henry Robinson, begins at 6.20 pm with a Lightsource Renewable Energy Address.
Tickets cost £17.50 and include supper. Student tickets are priced at £8.75. To purchase tickets, telephone 01684 584924. Tickets will be available on the day.