The highlight of the New Year for me has been the Oxford Farming Conference: the atmosphere at the event was really positive and the report ‘Opportunity Agriculture’ summarised in Farmers Weekly last week generated much debate. Many challenges were identified, not least the need for more investment in farm infrastructure and the need for new technologies; but access to water, the need for increased operational efficiency and greater cooperation along the supply chain were also highlighted.
The important observation was that these challenges represent opportunity too. There were inspiring presentations from Sally Wilson a dairy farmer in the borders and Caroline Miller, a Nuffield Scholar, who talked about putting ‘oomph and passion’ into rural tourism. In a few short minutes they both demonstrated the drive, enthusiasm and commitment that can move the industry forward. There were too many good papers and lively sessions to single out any one area for particular comment.
Despite the clear indications from speakers that volatility around input costs, global commodity prices and the weather are here to stay, the positive message was that UK agriculture is in a strong position. Compared to many overseas competitors, the UK is well placed to respond and take advantage of future opportunity with our sound governance, strong world-leading technical support and a stable political climate. It was also pleasing to hear many references to the value of benchmarking and from the platform more than one reference to AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Monitor Farms.
I am making steady progress with the Monitor Farm applications in the West and will be contacting all applicants over the next week to confirm the next stage of your involvement with AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds. The AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Regional Managers have been working hard to co-ordinate the application process in each region with the aim to announce the successful farms in March. Once again I would like to thank all of you that applied and those of you who, while not wanting to be a Monitor Farm, have expressed interest in the wider AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Business Development and benchmarking work.