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YNPA discusses how pig sector can set its own agenda

18th Dec 2019 / By Alistair Driver

The young pig producers and allied industry representatives who will be the future of the pig sector discussed how we can ‘set our own agenda’ at this year’s Young NPA National event.

The event took place last Thursday, as the public went to the polls to elect a new Government – and the discussion could not have been more topical as it focused on how the pig industry stamp its mark on the changing political and consumer landscapes.

NPA round-up

YNPA EdThe conference, chaired by A-One's Dan Day, began with a round up from the NPA’s Ed Barker and Rebecca Veale on the association’s work during its 20th anniversary year - from Brexit and the election to the threat of African swine fever (ASF) and other diseases, the ongoing battle with animal rights activists and more.

There was also an update on the YNPA and plans to raise its profile and prominence with the appointment of three new officeholders – chairman Wes Udall and vice-chairs Jonathan McKechnie and Jack Bosworth, who were introduced to the audience.

Guy Smith, NFU

NFU vice president Guy Smith set out some of the issues the farming industry could face under a new Conservative Government. He expects the Government to make rapid progress with the Brexit Bill to ensure we do leave on January 31.

He pointed out that the Agriculture Bill will now be sparked back into life, setting out a transition from the current support system, which helps farmers survive the vagaries of the weather and the market place, towards incentives for higher standards that address concerns over animal welfare, biodiversity and climate change.

If the UK pushes ahead with this strategy, while, at the same time, opening its borders to lower standard imports in post-Brexit trade deals, that could fatally undermine large parts of the UK farming industry, he added, citing the impact of the unilateral 1999 sow stall ban.

Guy Smith Vicki Hird YNPAGuy Smith, Vicki Hird and A-One's Dan Day during a Q&A session

Vicki Hird, Sustain

Vicki Hird, from Sustain, also expressed concerns about the threat of imports produced to standards not permitted here as she set her vision for what a sustainable farming industry should look like.

In giving an overview of the work of Sustain and its members, she reminded those present of the pressing concerns resulting from climate change, food poverty in the UK and sustainability challenges for all farming sectors.

She wants to see support switched to support ‘regenerative farming’ and policies that ensure everyone can access nutritious food and also ‘build animal welfare standards that respond to obligations to them as sentient beings’.

Stewart Houston, Red Tractor

YNPA SHStewart Houston, the former NPA executive director and chair and newly-appointed Red Tractor pigs chair, outlined some of the critical points in the NPA’s 20-year history, including the very early days of classical swine fever, foot-and-mouth, the pig price crisis and the Winnie the Pig parliament vigil.

Recalling how the NPA set off with little experience in dealing with Government, he said its representatives quickly learned to always enter meetings about a particular problem ‘with a solution and the promise the industry could deliver it with a bit of help from Government’.

He also gave an update on progress with the Government-funded programme to tackle PRRS in a co-ordinated way across the industry, due to be launched next year, and the longer-term Animal Health and Welfare Pathway.

Joe Stanley, Leicestershire farmer

YNPA Joe StanleyJoe Stanley explained how, despite holding no formal industry positions, he has become a high-profile advocate for the industry via the mainstream media and on social media.

This included hosting the BBC breakfast show on his farm for a whole week and also posting a video on his Twitter feed, viewed tens of thousands of times, showing how he kept his Longhorn cattle in response to the recent controversial BBC documentary that asked whether meat was a threat to our planet.

He has also sought to reach out to politicians who criticise farming, not just via twitter but by inviting them onto his farm, including, Ben Goldsmith, the Defra board member with a very green agenda.

Mr Stanley told the conference the UK farming industry has a positive message to tell. “We need to be more proactive in promoting ourselves and what we do,” he said.

There were active question and answer sessions with the speakers and the afternoon conference was followed by an excellent night out with food, drinks and dancing in London

Highlights from an excellent event - by Wes Udall 

New YNPA chair Wes Udall sets out his thoughts on the conference.

YNPA WesThis was my first YNPA National event and I was extremely pleased with the mix of producer and allied industry members.

There were two highlights for me; Vicki Hird, from Sustain, spoke about her vision and ideas for future food policy. While it would be fair to say there were many who disagreed or questioned her views on a lot of the topics she covered, it was good to be challenged and these sorts of views are ones that members of the pig industry face every day.

My other highlight was Joe Stanley, who provided us with his insight into why he is making his voice heard and why he is pleased to shout loudly about his farm, his practices and British farming

Why these two speakers were highlights? Well bizarrely they go hand in hand. I mentioned in last month’s Pig World about the need to shout louder for all the good things we do in the UK pig industry. And the need for this voice was evident when listening to Vicki.

Her talk, while challenging, again highlighted the need for us as a sector to recognise and confront the views that are articulated by Green NGOs, especially around about welfare and the environment.

Earlier this year NFU Vice president Stuart Roberts spoke about the UK farming industry having a licence to farm from the general public at the Agribusiness conference which concurred with Joe’s points.

99% of the public back farmers and what they do, so maybe we shouldn’t be so worried with sharing and shouting about what it is we do.

Joe highlighted that some of our counterpart industries (beef, sheep and arable) have it easier when it comes to sharing information about what they do, least of all because of the scenery and environment these industries are set in. I recognise the serious challenge producers face when opening up their farms or turning on a camera. For this reason, media engagement will be a part of our YNPA strategy.

We also had an active discussion around the need to get into schools and educate children about where their food comes from and the opportunities within agriculture.

As I said on the day, I encourage everyone in the pig industry, not just YNPA members, to get involved in the ‘The Feeding Britain’s Future’ programme.

I have done a couple of these now and it’s a great way of getting a good message across to future generations about the pig industry and all the good we do.

It was a great day and we continued the discussion long into the evening! So huge thanks go to A-One for their continued support with this event and to Dan Day for chairing.

As we start to build our YNPA strategy we’re committed to providing more opportunities and events for its members, so there is lots to look forward to in 2020 and beyond!

Happy New Year!

YNPA audience