The Oxford Farming Conference 2024 (OFC24), attended by HF’s Zac Clough and Harry Wells, was well attended by key players in the sector, and the discussions reflected positively on the agricultural landscape and its future. The OFC brought together diverse voices, from farmers and business leaders to politicians (including the Secretary of State and Shadow Secretary of State) and even royalty (HRH The Princess Royal, Princess Anne).
Despite the pressing challenges facing farmers and food suppliers today, the atmosphere was one of optimism, emphasising solutions and a collective commitment to positive change. The OFC24 proved to be enlightening and thought-provoking with the central theme of diversity.
The OFC24 report, “Is our UK Supply Chain Broken?” (authored by Ged Futter and sponsored by HF) sheds light on the challenges faced by farmers, particularly the skewed risk-reward ratio that has made food production unsustainable for many. The proposed solutions include addressing retailer tactics and behaviours, enhancing negotiating skills, closely managing cost-of-production, developing farmer-led brands, exploring new marketing channels, and moving away from over-production.
A prevailing theme at the conference related to the report was the need for shared responsibility and long-term thinking in the UK food supply sector. The belief is that a harmonious coexistence of farmers, suppliers, retailers, consumers, and the environment is possible. However, achieving this harmony requires a fundamental shift in how responsibilities are shared and a commitment to long-term, sustainable practices.
During his presentation, Steve Barclay MP, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, announced enhanced payments to farmers, improvements to, and additional measures for, the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and Countryside Stewardship (CS) schemes. The key highlight of the announcement being the increase in payments for farmers participating in the SFI and CS schemes.
The Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Steve Reed, and Stuart Roberts an advisor to the Liberal Democrats on Food and Farming Policy, presented the policies their parties propose to introduce should they be elected.
Caroline van der Plas proved to be a popular speaker in the political section of the conference. Caroline is the party leader of the Farmer Citizen Movement (BBB, BoerBurgerBeweging) in the Netherlands. In 2021, she won her party’s first seat in Parliament and her party’s influence has continued to grow as they win further seats.
Caroline’s speech underscored the importance of acknowledging and supporting farmers, emphasising the potential damage to countries if they lose a critical mass of farmers due to the failure to reward.
Dr. Awal Fuseini, a seasoned Senior Halal Sector Manager with the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), presented on the exciting and growing opportunities within the Halal sector.
Vincent Doumeizel, Senior Advisor for Ocean at United Nations Global Compact and Director for the Food Programme for the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, advocated for the consumption of, and therefore market for seaweed.
Sarah Dunning OBE, Chair of Westmorland Limited, shared her family story of innovation and inspiration, growing the family business from Hill Farm in Cumbria into a motorway services operator which collaborates with nearby farmers and food producers.
Throughout the conference, there were discussions about initiatives encouraging young people as well as those from non-farming backgrounds to join the farming industry, to help contribute to diversification and innovation within the sector.
The OFC 2024 evidenced that the UK agricultural sector is at a crucial juncture. The proposed solutions and initiatives outlined at the conference provide a roadmap for a more sustainable and collaborative future. It remains to be seen how these will be implemented and the impact they will have on addressing the challenges in our supply chain. The next few years will shape the future of the UK’s agricultural landscape, and the optimism stemming from the OFC 2024 suggests that positive change is on the horizon.
You may also like
The Oxford Farming Conference 2024 marks its opening today with the launch of its report “Is Our UK Food Supply...
Each year, the GCA surveys thousands of suppliers on their awareness of the Code and on any Code issues they...
One of the North West’s leading Dispute Resolution lawyers has moved across Manchester to join HF (formerly Horwich Farrelly) as...
This article originally appeared in SME Magazine, authored by Zac Clough, Solicitor at our Dispute Resolution department. Online reviews hugely...