Get to know the many conference chairs, speakers, coordinators and mentors from across the industry who are taking part in NFU Conference 2023.
Click on their profile to read their full biography.
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NFU chief adviser (horticulture)
He leads a team of three, working with the NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board and NFU Potato Forum to develop and deliver their priorities across a range of different policy areas.
Ash Amirahmadi, OBE
Managing Director, Arla Foods UK
Since 2018 he has been the Managing Director of Arla Foods UK, a cooperative owned by farmers which is the biggest dairy firm in the country and one of Britain’s largest food and beverage companies. He is also the current Chair of the boards of both Dairy UK and IGD.
Ash joined Arla more than 15 years ago. As a senior executive in the business his focus has been on growing revenues by meeting consumers’ needs for nutritious, affordable and more sustainable dairy products, thereby delivering financial stability and returns for Arla’s farmer owners.
Under his leadership Arla has played an important role in helping to meet the challenges of feeding the nation, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. Ash was appointed to the Government’s Food Resilience Industry Forum, and he and others in the company have been part of discussions with Defra, Cabinet Office, HM Treasury, the Department for Transport and others over issues relating to food security and the role of the sector in delivering the UK’s sustainability goals.
Ash began his career at Unilever after graduating from the University of Nottingham with a Mechanical Engineering degree. He held a number of positions in supply chain and commercial functions before being recruited into Arla’s UK business in 2004.
After further success in commercial positions, Ash joined the Arla Leadership Team in 2010, assuming responsibility for the cooperative’s relationships with its farmer owners. In 2012 he oversaw Arla’s transformative merger with Milk Link. He later moved on to briefly hold the position of Marketing Director before becoming Sales Director in 2016, charged with growing Arla’s business with UK customers.
During his tenure as Sales Director Ash oversaw a 120-strong commercial team with delivered sales growth of £200 million and a 9% uplift in the company’s branded sales. Since he became Managing Director more than 4 years ago Arla Foods UK has continued to grow and now has revenues in excess of £2 billion in this country, making the cooperative Britain’s leading dairy company.
Arla Foods is owned by approximately 9,000 farmers across several European countries. Around 2,100 of them are in the UK, representing between a quarter and a third of all British dairy farmers. The cooperative employs more than 3,800 people at 10 sites across England and Scotland, and is a leading supplier of fresh milk, butter, spreads and cream, as well as the country’s largest cheese manufacturer. Its much-loved brands include Lurpak, Cravendale and Anchor butter, as well as Lactofree, Skyr and Arla Protein.
With his background encompassing sales and commercial roles as well as managing relationships with Arla’s farmer owners, Ash is passionate about building a future food and farming system that has high environmental and wider standards and at the same time is financially successful for farmers because it delivers the healthy, affordable, high welfare and sustainable products demanded by consumers.
Ash was awarded an OBE for services to the dairy industry in the 2023 New Year’s Honours.
Farming industry journalist
He is a former editor of the Fresh Produce Journal and fresh foods editor at The Grocer, and now writes for various titles including NFU publications. He is also a regular speaker and chairman at industry events.
NFU Livestock Board vice chair
David is the NFU South West Livestock Board chair and has also worked with AHDB as a strategic farm to improve profitability and efficiency.
He is currently part of the TB Partnership.
Diversification includes the conversion of a 17th century tithe barn into a wedding and corporate events venue, and horse liveries. Minette co-founded the campaigning initiatives 'Ladies in Beef' and the 'Great British Beef Week'.
Campaigning on behalf of NFU members about the importance of British food and farming has been a key driver for Minette throughout her time at the NFU. In 2020 she led one of the most successful petitions ever, bringing together a coalition of chefs, including Jamie Oliver, farmers, environmentalists, consumer groups and animal welfare experts – resulting in over one million people signing the NFU food standards petition. She has also regularly engaged with different media genres including appearances on Desert Island Discs, Question Time, and Any Questions.
She has been an NFU member from grassroots through to County Chair; she served as Wiltshire’s Council delegate and also as Regional Board Chair for the South West. Minette has also been a member of NFU Governance Board and served as NFU Deputy President for four years from 2014 to 2018, before being elected as president in February 2018. Minette is also an ambassador of Farm Africa and was made a Deputy Lieutenant to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in 2021.
- Trade and standards
- EU and international relations
- Taxation and fiscal policy
- Science and research and development
- Food supply chain (fair dealing, Markets and Authorities, competition, regulation)
- Food service
- Levelling up
Professor Tim Benton
Research Director, Emerging Risks, Chatham House
From 2011-2016 he was the ‘champion’ of the UK’s Global Food Security programme which was a multi-agency partnership of the UK’s public bodies (government departments, devolved governments and research councils) with an interest in the challenges around food.
As a leading advocate on food systems transformation, he has worked with UK governments, the EU, G20 and a range of other governments around the world, as well as leading businesses and civil society organisations. He has been a global agenda steward of the World Economic Forum, and was an author of the IPCC’s Special Report on Food, Land and Climate (2019), and the UK’s Climate Change Risk Assessment (2017, 2022).
He has published more than 200 academic papers, many tackling how systems respond to environmental change. His work on sustainability leadership has been recognized with an honorary fellowship of the UK’s Society for the Environment, and a doctorate honoris causa from the Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium. He also remains a (part time) Research Professor at the University of Leeds.
NFU Deputy President
The home farm is based around arable production but has also diversified into equestrian and renewables.
Tom has represented the NFU from Local Branch Chairman through to Chair of the National Combinable Crops Board.
- Animal health and welfare including bTB
- Climate change and net zero
- Water and air issues
- Clean air strategy
- Workforce supply and training
- Farm assurance and labelling
- Food safety
- Animal ID and movements
The Rt Hon Dr Thérèse Coffey MP
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
She was previously Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and Deputy Prime Minister, between 6 September 2022 and 25 October 2022.
She was Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions between 8 September 2019 and 6 September 2022.
She was Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs between 25 July 2019 and 8 September 2019.
She was Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from 17 July 2016 to 25 July 2019. She was elected the Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal in May 2010.
NFU Combinable Crops Board chair
Wheat is grown for the feed market, with a small area grown for seed. Winter barley is feed and spring barley is for malting. The farming partnership also runs a grain storage business with drying facilities and a soft fruit enterprise.
Before the CBI, Tony was the first CEO of Be the Business, a business-led movement created to transform UK’s productivity founded by a group of FTSE-100 Chairmen and the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.
From 2010-2017 Tony was International Director, then Chief Strategy Officer, at Guardian News & Media.
For two years before that, he was a Policy Advisor HM Government (2008-10), joining the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury. Tony’s early career was at McKinsey & Company (1998-2008) in London and Washington DC where he worked for 10 years.
Independant Consultant, Midtown farm and NFU Next Generation Forum appointee, North West
She hails from an arable farm in north Cumbria and lives on a dairy farm near Penrith, Cumbria milking approximately 200 cows on a robotic system.
Mixed Farmer, F E Doble & Son
Rented, owned and contract farmed land totals 500 hectares. Ten percent of the farm lies on floodplain beside the River Thames which supports a forage based beef enterprise.
Stephen is working to reduce the farm's environmental impact while continuing to grow the business.
NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board chair
He is a director of Tristram Plants, part of the Farplants co-operative which grows and markets over 2000 plant varieties and generates more than £50 million annual sales through retail.
Senior Consumer Insight Manager, AHDB
His current role at AHDB focuses on consumer attitudes and food consumption patterns, looking at the impact consumer food choices has on the performance of AHDB food sector products.
Typical work of Steven and the team includes picking out key changes in the consumer landscape and predicted consumer trends, highlighting challenges and opportunities for the red meat industry.
NFU Vice President
David farms south of Horsham in West Sussex with his wife and two sons over 1200 tenanted hectares in the heart of the Sussex Weald.
Starting in 1989 with 70ha the business now has arable, dairy beef, Sussex suckler herd and sheep enterprises. In 2003 the Farm Shop opened and sells a wide range of food from the Victorian stable yard at Westons.
He has served previously within the NFU as Branch Chair, West Sussex Council Delegate, South East Regional Chair as well as four years on Governance Board.
David was elected to the position of NFU Vice President in February 2022.
- Plant health
- Competitiveness and productivity
- BPS Transition (NELMs/BPS)
- Regulation review and enforcement
- Planning, housing, rural development
- Agricultural transport
- Agriculture supply chain relations
- Infrastructure (HS2, Roads etc)
- Rural broadband and mobile communications
- Health, safety and wellbeing
- Rural crime
NFU Livestock Board chair
He has 2000 acres of moorland in a HLS agreement and the farm is stocked with mainly Easycare ewes as well as pedigree flocks of Beltex and Suffolks.
He is director of the “7 Hill Farmers Ltd” producer group and has been NFU Livestock Board chair since March 2018.
Farm Manager, Overbury Enterprises
The arable farm has been in in a Regenerative Agriculture system since 2015 and is integrated with a flock of 1000 outdoor lambing ewes. The farm hosts a very diverse Higher Tier Stewardship scheme which started in January 2021.
In January 2013 Jake gave a paper at the Oxford Farming Conference, ‘Will Precision Farming Change the Face of UK Agriculture?’ In January 2014 he presented some of his Nuffield Farming Scholarship findings at the Pershore Farming Conference and The Real Oxford Farming Conference.
In October 2012 Jake was awarded a Nuffield Farming Scholarship, his topic was ‘Breaking the Wheat Yield Plateau in the UK’. Post Nuffield Jake has presented his findings to the Nuffield Conference, Groundswell Conference and the Institute of Agricultural Managers at their annual conference in November 2014 and that month was awarded the Farm Business – Food and Farming ‘Progressive Farmer on the Year’. In 2020 Jake was awarded the ‘Soil farmer of the Year’ award by the Farm Carbon Toolkit, is a farmer advisor for Trinity Ag Tech and a director of The Green Farm Collective.
In 2021 Jake was awarded Environmental Champion by Farmers Weekly and as Arable Innovator of the Year at the British Farming Awards. In 2022 we was the BBC’s Food and farming-Future of Farming Award winner.
Jake has previously been co-opted to the National Combinable Crops Board for the National Farmers Union and is currently Worcestershire County Chairman.
Jake has been writing a blog since 2006 and has been ‘tweeting’ since October 2010 (@No1FarmerJake). Harvest 2011 saw the launch of his YouTube channel documenting life at Overbury Farms, helping promote the positive aspects of our Regenerative Agricultural system.
Chief adviser (food business unit), National Farmers’ Union
The role of the food business unit is to raise the profile and the voice of NFU members within the supply chain.
It supports with building better fairer supply chain relationships through its understanding of the challenges for all in the supply chain.
Agriculture Director, British Sugar
A Graduate in Chemical Engineering, he was previously Site Manager at Cantley Sugar Factory.
Owner and Director, Griffiths Family Farms and Oaklands Farm Eggs
Griffiths Green Enterprises have recently invested in innovative transformational technology creating electricity utilising chicken manure, building constantly on Elwyn’s principles to protect the environment.
Dr Phil Hadley
International Market Development Director, AHDB
Following access, Phil is also responsible for the vision and delivery of AHDB’s international market development programmes
Dr Jonathan Halstead
Head North West Europe and Managing Director, Syngenta UK
Before his current role based in Cambridge, he has worked in the industry globally, including in the Netherlands, and North America. As a result, he has worked within and responded to a range of differing market needs and regulatory requirements for seed care, crop protection, and plant breeding.
This, combined with his strong scientific background in biochemistry as well as market analysis means as Head of North West Europe and MD of Syngenta UK he continues to drive the introduction and growth of sustainable technologies in agriculture.
Chief Executive, First Milk
Prior to joining First Milk as CEO in 2017 she held several senior executive positions in UK dairy food companies, including at the farmer-owned co-operatives Milk Link and Glanbia Foods and in a family-owned business, Medina Dairy.
She originally trained as an animal nutritionist and worked for more than 10 years in the agricultural supply sector.
chief combinable crops adviser, National Farmers’ Union
Seeing the change farming policy was undergoing, the desire to be involved led to him joining NFU Sugar in early 2019, before moving to the NFU plant health team, and then becoming chief combinable crops adviser.
It’s been a period of many challenges facing the sector from uncertainty over the future of farm support, the availability of fertilizer, and Farming Rules for Water. Through them all, the NFU Combinable Crops Board and team are focused on championing British arable farming and food production.
Dr Penny Hundleby
Senior Scientist, John Innes Centre
While Penny’s work uses these technologies to support UK and International research as an enabling technology, to better understand the function of genes, she has followed the wider debate on biotech food.
Penny’s interest in regulatory oversight started during her involvement in an EU project that aimed to produce a therapeutic protein in plants and take it through to Phase 1 clinical trials. Penny’s role was to assess the biosafety and regulatory implications surrounding this emerging technology.
More recently Penny has been involved in following the New Genetic Technologies (Precision Breeding) Bill currently passing through parliament. This change in legislation is enabling researchers to carryout field trials of gene edited crops more easily, and will be needed to allow gene edited crops to be grown commercially in this country.
Penny is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology (FRSB), an Honorary lecturer at the University of East Anglia, Associate Fellow Higher Education (AFHE), Chartered Scientist (CSci) and a Director for the International Society for Plant Molecular Farming (ISPMF).
Müller Milk and Ingredients Managing Director
In 2019 Rob became Chief Operating Officer covering the entire end to end supply chain and led the successful restructuring and transformation of the MMI business.
Rob is now Managing Director with overall responsibility for MMI.
He is married with two sons and enjoys watching and coaching rugby along with spending time with family and friends.
NFU Director General
Leaving FDF at the end of 2014, he took up the post of DG at the Provision Trade Federation (PTF) looking after the interests of businesses involved in the UK bacon and dairy trade.
Before working at FDF and PTF Terry worked for the NFU from 2002-2011 in a variety of roles including Head of Government Affairs, Head of Food Chain and Director of Communications.
Terry lives in Cheshire with his wife Emma and their two daughters.
Dr Zoe Leach
NFU East Anglia Regional Director
Zoe will be a familiar face to many farmers in her previous role as chief executive of the NPA, the trade association for British commercial pig producers.
Zoe, who worked at the NPA under her maiden name of Davies, has extensive experience within the agricultural industry. Between 1995 and 1998 she completed a PHD in pig welfare at the University of Reading, studying the welfare implications of outdoor pig breeding systems.
She then spent three years as farms and trials manager for BQP, including running a pig farm in Suffolk, before she joined Defra in 2002 as senior scientific officer, leading its livestock science unit.
She was appointed general manager of the NPA in 2008 and became its first chief executive in 2014.
Zoe said: “East Anglia is a large pig producing area so I am fortunate to have a lot of great contacts already, but I am also focussed on getting to grips with the myriad of other businesses in the region, understanding the key issues and supporting all members to the best of my ability.”
Chief adviser (poultry), National Farmers' Union
In 2019 Aimee was named the EPIC Young Poultry Person of the Year and eight months later was appointed NFU chief poultry adviser.
Aimee leads the NFU poultry team on a number of policy issues covering both the poultry meat and egg sectors and manages the national poultry board.
Chief Communications and Sustainability Officer, Greene King
His previous experiences includes 17 years in investment banking with banks such as Credit Suisse and Citigroup.
R&D Group Lead: Biotic Stress, KWS
Over the last 10 years he has held various positions within the business and has a wealth of knowledge which spans the sector. The Biotic Stress R&D Group explore disease and pest resistance solutions, utilising state of the art technologies such as genome editing to support breeding and product development.
Christine Middlemiss CB
UK Chief Veterinary Officer, Defra
She has been instrumental in the government’s tireless efforts to manage the unprecedented ongoing outbreak of avian influenza in the UK.
Director, The Retail Mind
He has over 30 years’ retail and manufacturing experience, mostly on the buying side but also as seller and producer.
Mixed farmer, Fenton Home Farm
They run a 385-acre farm consisting of poultry, beef, and sheep enterprises which includes 64,000 free range hens, 150 fattening cattle and 400 Aberfield cross-bred breeding ewes. Clare is a qualified chartered surveyor undertaking consultancy work and she is a Nuffield Scholar. Clare and Stephen have 3 teenage sons.
In addition to the core farming business, the traditional stone barns have been converted to residential properties and holiday cottages.
In 2014 the business further diversified from the original business of potatoes, arable, beef and sheep with the development of the 181-acre 47MW solar farm. They also have 120kW of ground-mounted solar PV panels for the poultry business and a 350kW biomass boiler which heats the properties.
Clare is very involved with the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society “Food Story” initiative which educates 5- to 18-year-olds about how local food is produced by farmers.
Clare is a past NFU County Chair and was awarded the prestigious NFU Cymru/NFU Mutual Wales Woman Farmer of the Year at the 2022 Royal Welsh Show.
Deputy Director, Department for International Trade
Karen’s previous roles included establishing DIT’s new Scotland team during 2021, leading the policy and secretariat work for the independent Trade and Agriculture Commission in 2020 -2021, and Covid supply chain roles in both Defra and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office during 2020.
Karen was the UK Government’s first overseas Agriculture Counsellor in the British Embassy Beijing from 2015-2018 and led the UK’s participation in the Beijing International Expo in 2019.
Prior to this she held a number of roles in Defra spanning environment, marine, water, international development and UN environmental governance.
NFU Poultry Board chair (West Midlands member)
Aside from poultry, the family business farms 1000 acres of arable, has a 1MW biomass boiler system, a 1MW biomass CHP system, 500KW solar PV arrays and a 500KW wind turbine.
James is the current chair of the NFU Poultry Industry Programme and was previously co-opted to the board as a PIP representative which ensures the voice of younger members is well represented. He is keen for the board to address issues surrounding labour shortages and rising costs of production and believes these are some of the industries main priorities.
NFU Dairy Board chair
Milk is sold to Arla, with surplus heifers sold at calving.
Michael has held various roles within the NFU, as Worcestershire county chair, West Midlands regional board chair and council delegate. Michael has been on the NFU Dairy Board for eight years, two as vice chair and two as chair. He was re-elected to serve a second term as chair in March 2018.
Michael believes strongly in farmer collaboration, as well as improving the mechanics of the supply chain and is keen to improve relationships between farmers, processors and end users, whilst continuing to build consumer support for the industry.
Managing Director, Hugh Lowe Farms Ltd
She became Managing Director of HLF in 1996 and later, its associated plant propagation company Blaise Plants Ltd. Marion is also a co-owner and director of Burlington Berries Pty Ltd in Tasmania, and of the agricultural robotics start up, Dogtooth Technologies Ltd.
Former roles include Chairman of Berry Gardens Growers, the largest UK berry marketing co-operative; Director of the Oxford Farming Conference; Trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and of the East Malling Trust for Horticultural Research. She was awarded an MBE for services to the fruit industry in 2014.
Dairy policy specialist, National Farmers' Union
She spent three years working for the British Agriculture Bureau as a european policy adviser in Brussels, representing the UK Farming Unions through the Brexit transition and helping to build new trading relationships with the EU.
Re-joining the NFU's dairy team in the summer of 2022, Verity works closely with the National Dairy Board on areas such as exports and trade, air quality, farmer representation and helps to manage supply chain relationships.
She studied political science at Exeter University and grew up on a mixed arable and livestock farm on the Herefordshire border.
NFU Potato Forum chair
He farms in partnership with his brother and has a mixture of tenanted and owned farms. He also grows wheat, oats, and oilseed rape.
NFU Sugar Board chair
Michael farms in the Fens of North Cambridgeshire and South Lincolnshire, farming 2000 hectares, across three farming businesses. The family has been involved in drainage and farming in the Fens since the 17th century.
The farms grow wheat, spring barley, sugar beet, spring beans, oilseed rape, marrowfat peas and condiment mustard. They are part of the RSPB’s Farmland Bird Friendly Zone, which now covers more than 4000 hectares and landscape scale benefits covering 230km sq. Also with fellow mustard growers, they are working on a landscape scale bee and pollinator project with Unilever.
Michael has also served as NFU county chair and the council delegate for Cambridgeshire, the most farmed county in the UK, chairing the East Anglian regional board for four years, as well serving as chair of the NFU Audit committee.
Michael is chair of the North Level District Internal Drainage Board, serving 34,000 hectares. He spent 10 years on the Anglian Northern Regional Flood and Coastal Committee. He is currently chair of the English Mustard Growers and vice chair of Condimentum LTD for the milling of mustard seeds and processing mint leaf in Norwich, working with Unilever’s Colman’s brand.
Dr Lydia Smith
Director of Innovation Farm, NIAB
EAIH is a research-based incubator enabling interaction between farmers and businesses through collaborative research, with access to farmers and innovation-piloting capability. At the EAI Hub our focus is sustainable farming, valorisation of crop coproducts and sustainable use of heat and power to drive innovation.
Lydia started in plant pathology, based at ADAS and East Malling Research. Following a doctorate in plant microbial ecology, she subsequently lectured in soil science, crop microbial interactions, environmental biology and land reclamation at the Universities of E. London and Luton. After joining NIAB, Lydia built up the research remit broadly across all areas and personally focussed on crop product improvement, especially authenticity and quality of products. Research shifted towards improvement of plant genetic resources and new methods for their utilisation and characterisation; leading within the novel and non-food crop areas, and building up a portfolio of projects over 12 years. Projects were particularly concerned with plant genetic improvement for non-food fibre, bio-pharmaceuticals and probiotic applications.
Lydia leads interactive research into sustainable farming; soil health and crop microbial interactions (especially forage legumes with probiotic applications, and positive environmental impacts of these crops) crop genetic improvement and waste minimisation.
Director of Customer Relations, Aubrey Allen Ltd
Simon is an Honouree member of the British Culinary Federation, Liveryman of The Worshipful Company of Butchers and part of Team UK Bocuse d’Or and will share his thoughts on the changing demands of food service including the use of alternative cuts to balance the carcass.
The Rt Hon Mark Spencer MP
Minister of State for Farming, Fisheries and Food (Defra)
Prior to his current position, Spencer had served on the Environmental Audit Committee, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (2013-2016), as well as PPS to then Defra Secretary Liz Truss.
With a farming background, Spencer studied at the Shuttleworth Agricultural College in Bedfordshire, before joining the family farm business.
The Rt Hon Sir Keir Starmer MP
Leader of HM Official Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party
In 2008 Keir was appointed Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Head of the Crown Prosecution Service for England and Wales, a role he held until 2013. Keir studied law at Leeds University and St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and has published several books including Three Pillars of Liberty: Political Rights and Freedoms in the UK (1996) and European Human Rights Law (1999).
Keir was first elected as the MP for Holborn and St Pancras in 2015. He lives in the constituency with his wife and two children and is an avid Arsenal fan.
Professor Mark Stevens
Head of Science, British Beet Research Organisation
He works closely with the sugar beet industry via his role within the BBRO to ensure appropriate R&D to maximise the future potential of the sugar beet crop- including exploration of the opportunities presented by Gene Editing.
In 2019, he was awarded an Honorary Professorship in Plant Virology from the University of Nottingham.
NFU Dairy Board vice chair
The farm runs a herd of 240 pedigree Holsteins and supplies Paynes Dairies. Not from a farming background, Paul worked in the financial sector before meeting his wife, Rachael, and joining the family dairy business.
Paul was on the NFU Dairy Board for two years as an appointee and is enthusiastic about helping to educate people of all ages about dairy farming. He is keen to continue developing relationships with milk processors and other farmer representatives to ensure a joined-up industry approach to future farm policy.
Paul believes a fair and transparent supply chain is critical if dairy farmers are to meet the demands of a quickly changing society.
He also works hard to ensure the dairy sector is represented throughout the supply chain and at government level so dairy farmers can make the most of future opportunities and have a bright and prosperous future.
NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board vice chair
He is Managing Director of Sandfields Farms Ltd (part of the G’s Group), growing over 1600ha of salads and vegetables for the major retailers, plus a West Africa farm business in Senegal which produces over 400 ha of winter salads for the UK and EU market.