NFU Next Generation Conference discusses ambitions for the future

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The NFU has brought together members of the next generation forums from all four UK farming unions to discuss their ambitious plans for the future of farming, food and energy security, and reaching net zero.

Coming together for the first time in four years, the NFU Four Nations Next Generation Conference was held jointly with NFU Cymru, NFUS and UFU. The conference gave the young farmers representing the industry’s next generation across the UK a chance to have their say and share ideas about the key priorities for the future of the farming industry, including their collective  responsibility of reaching net zero by 2040 and the resulting positive impact on both farm businesses and the environment, as well as discussing access to land and financing, and highlighting the importance of food security and energy security to the next generation.

NFU next generation forum chair Eveey Hunter said: “We have so much to celebrate as young British farmers, as some of the most climate-friendly food producers in the world. It was great to come together with young farmers from all four corners of the nation to celebrate our successes, share our ambitions and passions for the future and discuss next steps.

“At a time when the global picture is threatening the stability of the world’s food and energy security, and with young farmers seeing the effects of climate change every day, it was vital to bring a renewed sense of determination to how we will tackle these issues within our sector as the next generation of farmers.

Confidence in the next generation

“I am confident that with the right support from government and industry to help the next generation and new entrants to farming, we can continue to provide high-welfare, nutritious food for the nation, provide jobs for people across multiple skills and sectors, while protecting and enhancing our environment.”

NFU director of Policy Andrew Clark opened the conference, before representatives from each next generation group discussed the future of the farming industry with NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw.

Jessica Williams from the NFU Cymru Next Generation Group, said: “I have already been able to take advantage of so many fantastic opportunities being a part of the NFU Cymru Next Generation Group and meeting up with the next generation forums from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland has been a fantastic experience. It has been really inspiring to meet so many other vibrant people working in agriculture who are equally as passionate about the future of sustainable food production, the environment and the well-being of our rural communities. While it is clear that there are challenges on the horizon, we should never forget that farming delivers so much for people and communities. I firmly believe that our sector is in safe hands with so many engaged and dedicated farmers from all corners of the UK all striving towards the same shared goals.”

Fantastic opportunity

Speaking from the conference, NFU Scotland’s Next Generation Chair Matthew Steel, an arable and poultry farmer from Forfar said: “It has been a fantastic opportunity to come together with the fellow Next Generation groups from the UK.  It was inspiring to hear from our counterparts.  There was a real sense of innovation and determination when we were considering how and what support we need, as the future of farming, so that we can continue to deliver high quality food production but also work towards the ambitious climate and nature targets.

“From NFU Scotland Next Generation’s perspective, it was great to be able to share the options we have in Scotland on how to get a foothold in the sector, including working with Scottish Land Matching Service to mitigate some of the barriers faced by new entrants.  That said, this conference also showed that there is a lot we can learn from the fellow unions on ideas for future support for new entrants to ensure they are the life blood of our sector in the years to come.”

UFU policy manager James McCluggage said, “The NFU Next Generation conference was a great event and an excellent opportunity to catch up with our UK Union Next Gen colleagues. The positivity amongst the delegates towards the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead provides great optimism for the future of UK farming. No matter what comes their way, they are eager to find solutions that support the development of a sustainable and profitable agriculture industry that delivers for the environment and consumers.

“It’s always hugely beneficial to hear first-hand what is going on in other regions within the UK. Face-to-face encounters are a great way to gain new ideas and opinions on how we do things in Northern Ireland. In particular, it was fascinating to learn of the progression being made within each region in regards to their own respective agriculture policies, and how interested the other regions are with the direction of travel of Northern Ireland’s future agriculture policy.”

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