UP UNTIL February 28 I have been officially the incoming county chairman for Staffordshire NFU, writes David Brookes.
That Thursday was the second day of the NFU Conference and the day of its annual meeting, when I officially took over my new role from the outgoing chairman Andrew Collier.
The NFU Conference this year attracted considerable media attention; we had the badger cull announcement, the horsemeat saga and the CAP English settlement all at the top of the agenda.
The badger cull proposals brought out the animal right activists and we were told to expect a crowd of 600 - fortunately only about 100 turned up.
The DEFRA Minister reiterated his determination for the proposed cull to go ahead which received a warm reception from the delegates, many affected by bovine TB within their herds.
To just deal with this in cattle and failing to deal with the disease within the wildlife population will not stop the spread of BTB.
There are also big question marks over the effectiveness and cost of a badger vaccine, which is why a variety of approaches are needed to control and eradicate this dreadful disease.
It is estimated that unchecked this will cost the taxpayer £1billion a year.
In the horsemeat saga the Minister was determined to ensure that any criminal activity or fraud would be pursued.
The CEO of Tesco gave farmers assurances that all proteins would be British sourced, starting with UK chickens, yet tried to assure the public that prices would not rise which was quite interesting to hear - especially when the inclusion of replacement meats within beef products was probably done to make the items.
A big debate ensued around CAP reform and what English framers would be expected to receive as part of their future farm payments.
At present an English dairy farmer would get £200 less per hectare than, for example, their Danish competitor.
For the most part of the last 20 years, up until fairly recently, the same Danish dairy farmer has been receiving far higher milk prices than in the UK.
The NFU joined with other organisations are campaigning for a level playing field regarding farm payments, and at a time of concerns over food security, against further greening measures that would further disadvantage English farmers’ competitiveness and productivity.
I managed to ask a couple of questions during the keynote debates; one for Owen Patterson, the Defra Minister, regarding food prices and retailers potentially destroying the British family farm in the same way that they have the British High Street and our rural market towns, and the other to the Tesco chief executive about aggressive food discounting - particularly its sourcing of liquid milk which is now sold at less than a third of its value of 40 years ago.