New year message – Show Director Charles Mills

Charles Mills Show Director

At the start of a new year in farming, when we are all looking at what we want from the months ahead, my advice is not to overlook the power of working together to achieve your aims.

Regardless of where we are in our personal and professional journeys, there is so much to gain from looking and listening and learning from others.

For me, collaboration is key to most successes, something I know all too well as a farmer and as show director of the Great Yorkshire Show.

I have always found that having a great team around you – whether that be family, friends, staff or advisors – counts for so much.

This kind of positive collaboration is very much at the heart of everything the Yorkshire Agricultural Society does as a farming charity.

Unity and collaboration

This month’s Plough Sunday Service, organised between the Society and our hosts Ripon Cathedral, was a wonderful demonstration of this, bringing people of all ages together in a spirit of unity, strength and hope for the future.

There is great meaning, as part of this service, in members of Young Farmers Clubs presenting the ploughshare to be blessed.

It is a reminder to current generations of the nurturing duty we have to ensure the next generation has opportunities in an industry that has given us so much.

A recent, powerful collaboration at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society is the work we did with the CLA and the farming community to highlight the prevalence of hare coursing on our region’s farmland.

By working together, we presented compelling survey data to government, MPs and the police at a timely moment during a long-running campaign calling for stronger legislative and police powers to deal with the crime.

Now, those caught hare coursing can now face an unlimited fine and up to six months in prison.

Two new criminal offences have been introduced: trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare; and being equipped to trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare.

Convicted offenders can be disqualified from owning or keeping dogs.

Encouragingly, I have noticed fewer incidences of hare coursing in previous local hotspots. I hope this lasts and farmers elsewhere are experiencing similar.

Hopes for the year ahead

A great hope for 2023 is that farming’s togetherness makes a difference in troubled sectors.

The pig sector has suffered an eighth successive quarter of negative margins, a situation explained expertly by pig vet Duncan Berkshire, a member of the Future Farmers of Yorkshire network supported by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, at the Plough Service.

AHDB reports pig producers lost, collectively, £600m between Autumn 2020 and September 2022; an unsustainable, complex situation involving labour shortages in the processing sector.

Pig farmers now eagerly await action from a UK-wide government review of contractual practice in the UK pig sector.

The review was announced during the Great Yorkshire Show where local pig farmers brought together by the Future Farmers of Yorkshire discussed the crisis with then Defra Secretary Victoria Prentis.

There is major strain too on poultry farms. Rising input costs during a time of high inflation has led to a shortage of eggs.

Inflation was a topic I was grateful to be invited to speak about to Future Farmers at their December debate.

My message then still stands: be aware of inflation but concentrate on factors you can control within your business; look for opportunities, and when they are there, take them.

The Yorkshire Agricultural Society continues to offer avenues of support, professional development opportunities and social occasions to keep you connected.

Visit our For Farmers webpage for all the latest details.

This column, by YAS Show Director Charles Mills originally appeared in The Yorkshire Post on 14th January 2023.

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Ripon CathedralDr Hannah Fraser