In JANUARY focus was keeping potatoes on the political agenda in London. In the morning we had a tour of the Houses of Parliament where we got to actually go into the House of Commons and House of Lords.
This was followed by a session with Mark Spencer MP. He spoke about his background in farming and his political career. He spoke about the need to have more interaction with government ministers as an industry and urged us to get involved with dripping the message in by doing things such as writing to our local parish magazine.
He spoke about the main problems in his constituency and nationally and explained about the select committees who scrutinise Government policy. There were discussions covering various topics such as pest control, GM, flooding and the EU.
In the afternoon we had a session with Neil Parish MP, Geoffrey Clinton Brown MP and Mark Spencer MP. Various subjects were discussed such as contracts, over production, GM and promoting potatoes to the public.
We then headed over to the NFU London Head office where we first heard from Matt Ware, head of gov and parliamentary affairs. He spoke about the British agriculture bureau, Brussels made up of 55,000 famers in England in Wales, 13 million in Europe and spoke about decisions being made by the European Council, European Commission and European Parliament.
He also told us what the NFU does from the London office. They are involved in Party conferences, awareness days, protests, monitoring what politicians say (to thank or counter), briefings, amendments to bills, giving evidence to select committees, crisis management and a media role.
They have three lobbyists in the London office and we were told about the golden rules of lobbying including key words such as opportunist, accurate, brief and follow up.
Matt told us that during the 2015 elections NFU contacted all 2907 candidates to meet and go on farm. They met with 500 and continue that relationship even if they didn’t get in. He also spoke about issues facing them currently such as BPS, commodity prices, TB, tax, broadband, sugar tax, tractor and trailer weights and pesticides.
We then heard from Alex Godfrey who told us about the NFU Potato Forum. This is made of twelve members, eleven of which are growers and they are involved in providing a voice, raising member issues and creating business guides. He also spoke about the NFU fruit and veg pledge and their role in holding the AHDB to account.