Monday, 19 January 2015
Guest blog: Suffolk FWAG Spring Conference
It’s that time of year again. New Year’s Resolutions and farming’s conference season. The big guns started the ball rolling with the Oxford Farming Conference in early January, and spring drilling and spraying will no doubt start after the NFU Conference at the end of February. Sandwiched in the middle is the Suffolk FWAG conference, a business which despite its small size, regularly attracts high profile speakers at its events. This year is no different. The other interesting fact is that women make up 50% of those speakers. Many thanks to Caroline Drummond from LEAF for taking the helm.
And there is certainly a lot to talk about. Central to the conference’s agenda is the new Countryside Stewardship Scheme, it’s interaction with greening and EFA’s, and how these will help deliver Suffolk’s environmental targets over the next 5 years. Teresa Dent will start by looking back. Did Environmental Stewardship deliver what it promised? What should have been done differently, or not at all? Has research and scientific evidence helped shape the new scheme which appears, at this stage, to be radically different to the CSS over a decade ago.
Dougal McNeill from Natural England will explain the rationale behind the new scheme. The consultation process has been long and thorough so farmers and conservation advisers have had plenty of chances to give their opinions on the technical details. Those farmers with expiring ES schemes will get the chance to find out what options are available to them. Suffolk has such a wide variety of farming systems - the Sandlings, the Brecks, the Claylands, and the River Valleys for example – so the same question will produce a different answer. A caffeine booster will be much needed at this point!
Then the conference moves onto two “operations” and a “revival”. Brin Hughes, an agronomist from Conservation Grade, leads the way with Operation Turtle Dove. OTD was launched with an important and urgent mission to reverse the fortunes of this enigmatic and culturally significant bird. They have suffered a 95% UK population decline since 1970 so reversing this decline must be one of farming’s New Year Resolutions?
The second operation, Operation Pollinator, is a great example of collaboration within the industry. Belinda Bailey from Syngenta, will outline the successes of this initiative and how the “pollinator package” within the new scheme can keep the momentum going. Let’s get Suffolk buzzing again!
Last but not least is Richard Barnes from Kings. Well known to many of you, he has been instrumental in producing a green cover crop revival. There are certainly fewer ploughed fields in my part of Suffolk. The list of reasons why you should consider growing cover crops is impressive - the benefits are both financial and environmental. And should help you to keep the inspectors happy too!
Book your place
The conference takes place on 13th February at Trinity Park, Ipswich. Click here to download the booking form and programme.