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AHDB’s Next Generation bring potatoes to Parliament

20 January 2016

AHDB Potatoes’ ‘Next Generation’ delegates spoke on spuds and the needs of the £4.1bn GB potato sector on an informative visit to Westminster and NFU London last week.

Attending the penultimate session in their programme, the event provided insight into MPs dealings with rural issues and equipped delegates with the confidence to engage with the political process.

Following a tour of the Houses, the group met with Nottinghamshire farmer and businessman Mark Spencer, Member of Parliament for the Sherwood constituency.

“It’s about how you engage with this place to enable improvement in your own community,” encouraged Mark Spencer MP. “Make an appointment with your MP and ensure policy makers understand the impact of the policy changes they may make on your industry.”

Delving deeper into the mechanics of the system, delegates got valuable time with Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP and chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee, Neil Parish MP. They were able to discuss industry challenges ranging from the need for quality people in the potato sector to how the food and agriculture industry is represented in government. There was also time to share views on current or impending concerns for the industry including water and a potential ‘Brexit’.

Summarising the prospects for the industry and the delegates themselves, Mark Spencer added “We are very innovative as a UK industry. If you’re ambitious and driven, there is enormous potential to mark out a career in the potato supply chain. Go out there and do it.”

The final element of the day hosted by Matt Ware (NFU's head of government and parliamentary affairs) and Alex Godfrey (Lincolnshire farmer and chair of NFU’s Potato Forum), took the group mere metres away to the NFU’s London office. Completing the jigsaw of relationships, the session explained the differing roles of AHDB, NFU and Parliament and the interplay between them to achieve the best for industry.

“NFU has a role to work closely alongside AHDB,” pronounced Alex Godfrey. “For example, the Potato Forum has a seat on the CIPC and Nematode Stewardship Groups, and it really is AHDB’s expertise and evidence base that makes that work.”

Returning to the political agenda, Matt Ware advises “It’s important to build relationships with your politicians. I would particularly encourage younger constituents to engage more as their views are invaluable.  So don’t be afraid to get onto your local committees and provide the industry perspective.”

On his experience of the day, Next Generation delegate and McCain trainee field person, Matt Stubbings reported, “It was an absolutely fantastic day and I certainly took back a phenomenal amount of new learning. The visits provided a great insight into potatoes and agriculture as a whole, but from a whole new political perspective.”

The AHDB Potatoes’ Next Generation programme enables future industry ambassadors to learn about areas of business that impact on the potato industry that they would not ordinarily be exposed to; preparing them to be the catalysts of future industry success.

This group will meet for the final time in March, however the Next Generation programme continues with applications open now for 2016/17. The deadline is 31 January, see potatoes.ahdb.org.uk/next-gen-application to apply.

“I’ve made great business contacts throughout which would have taken me years to collate and it’s given me a cross-section view of the whole industry,” fed back Matt Stubbings on the programme overall. “If you’re interested in the potato industry – you should definitely get involved because the opportunities are fantastic.”

- Ends -

Further information
Helen Williams, AHDB Potatoes Communications Executive, Helen.Williams@ahdb.org.uk, 024 7647 8662

Next Generation delegates:
Douglas Charlton - Farmcare, Scotland
Amber Cottingham - Branston Ltd, Lincoln
Bryonie Cundy - Nene Potatoes, Lincolnshire
Patrick Elliott - I D & F K Elliott, Wales
John Glazebrook-Milner - Wilfred Maddocks Ltd, Shropshire
Emma Kelcher - Spearhead Marketing Ltd, Cambridgeshire
Simon Leaver - Fylde Fresh & Fabulous, Lancashire
Victoria Oaks - R S Cockerill, York
George Putterill - J Putterill & Son, Lincolnshire
John Reid - Vinny Farms, Scotland
Lee Sharp - Maincrop Potatoes, Shropshire 
Matthew Stubbings - McCain Foods GB Ltd, Yorkshire
Christopher Webster - AW& MA Webster, Lancashire
Shaun White - AR & SA White, Cornwall

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