NFU23: Meet the NFU conference speakers

27 January 2023

NFU Conference 2023 artwork with the words

Meet the industry leaders, experts and political heavyweights that will be discussing the future of agriculture and horticulture at #NFU23 at the ICC, Birmingham, 21–22 February 2023.

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. 

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | J | L | M | O | R | S | T | W 

See our Conference programme


Lee Abbey

NFU chief adviser (horticulture)

Lee has worked for the NFU for 17 years and within the horticulture team for the over 11.

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

Ash Amirahmadi is one of the most high-profile leaders in the UK food and farming sector.

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.


Michael Barker

Farming industry journalist

Michael Barker is a farming journalist with 20 years’ experience covering the sector.

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.

David Barton

NFU Livestock Board vice chair

David was born and raised on his family farm in the Cotswolds where he farms a beef suckler herd and cereals, using the two businesses to support each other and provide sustainable produce.

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.

Minette Batters

NFU President

Minette runs a tenanted family farm in Wiltshire.  The mixed farming business includes a 100-cow continental cross suckler herd, as well as sheep and arable.

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.

Officeholder responsibilities 

  • 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
  • AHDB
  • Levelling up
  • Education

Professor Tim Benton

Research Director, Emerging Risks, Chatham House

Professor Tim G. Benton leads the Environment and Society Programme at Chatham House. He joined Chatham House in 2016 as a distinguished visiting fellow, at which time he was also dean of strategic research initiatives at the University of Leeds. 

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.

Tom Bradshaw

NFU Deputy President

Tom farms in partnership with his wife, Emily, and his parents in North Essex. Alongside a small owned farm they run a larger contract farming business growing a range of combinable crops across 950 hectares in North East Essex.

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.

Officeholder responsibilities 

  • 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
  • Banking
  • Animal ID and movements


The Rt Hon Dr Thérèse Coffey MP

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thérèse Coffey was appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 25 October 2022.

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.

Matt Culley

NFU Combinable Crops Board chair

Matt farms in partnership with his brother in Hampshire, currently managing 650 hectares of owned and contract farmed chalk loam, clay cap and gravel soils, supporting wheat, barley and oilseed rape over the four coarse rotation.

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.


Tony Danker

Director-General, CBI

Tony joined the CBI as Director-General in November 2020. His career spans a range of roles in business, media and government. 

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.

Helen Dent

Independant Consultant, Midtown farm and NFU Next Generation Forum appointee, North West

Helen is a qualified agronomist and farm carbon consultant based in Cumbria, who specialises in soils and carbon auditing who aspires to help agriculture show its worth in the climate crisis, and help prove the benefits of ruminant animals in our farming systems.

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. 

Stephen Doble

Mixed Farmer, F E Doble & Son

Stephen is a fourth generation mixed arable and beef farmer from South Oxfordshire. 

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.


Martin Emmett

NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board chair

Martin was elected chair of the NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board in 2022. 

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.

Steven Evans

Senior Consumer Insight Manager, AHDB

Steven is the Senior Consumer Insight Manager at AHDB, working within the Retail and Consumer Insight team and has over 15 years of experience looking at consumer behaviour and shopping habits.

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.

David Exwood

NFU Vice President

David believes that the future of farming isn't about managed decline and dependence on environmental payments, it's about creating new opportunities for profitable food production alongside net zero and biodiversity.

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.

Officeholder responsibility

  • 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


Richard Findlay

NFU Livestock Board chair

Richard farms a mixed beef and sheep holding in Westerdale in the North York Moors National Park.

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.

Jake Freestone

Farm Manager, Overbury Enterprises

Jake manages the 1590 Ha in-hand farming operations for Penelope Bossom trading as Overbury Enterprises on the Gloucestershire/Worcestershire border. The farm gained LEAF Demonstration Farm (Linking Environment and Farming) status in 2012. 

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.

Amy Fry

Chief adviser (food business unit), National Farmers’ Union

Amy joined the NFU as chief food business unit adviser in June 2022 having previously spent 20 years in the food industry in various commercial management roles.

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.


Daniel Green

Agriculture Director, British Sugar

Dan Green is the Agriculture Director at British Sugar. He has a breadth of experience ranging from his family arable farming background, as well as working through various operational roles since joining British Sugar in 2003.

A Graduate in Chemical Engineering, he was previously Site Manager at Cantley Sugar Factory.

Elwyn Griffiths

Owner and Director, Griffiths Family Farms and Oaklands Farm Eggs

Elwyn Griffiths, Technical and Financial Director of Oaklands Farm Eggs, has celebrated many decades of successful egg production, centring around food safety, animal welfare and research.

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

Phil leads AHDB’s work seeking export access to global markets, linking with our exporters, UK Government Departments and their overseas equivalents to deliver technical solutions and negotiate export approval.

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

Dr Jonathan Halstead has many years of experience in managing and leading on innovation and genetic improvement across a range of crops including cereals and OSR for Syngenta. 

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.

Shelagh Hancock

Chief Executive, First Milk

Shelagh has more than 30 years' experience in the food and agricultural supply sectors.

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.

Anthony Hopkins

chief combinable crops adviser, National Farmers’ Union

From a family with generations of involvement with farming and small scale farm machinery manufacturing Anthony spent 12 years working on a mixed farm in Worcestershire before going on to lecture and research politics and policy at Birmingham University.

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

Penny is a Senior Plant Scientist specialising in the development of genetic modification (GM) and gene editing (GE) technologies for UK crops.

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).

Rob Hutchison

Müller Milk and Ingredients Managing Director

Having joined the business in 2010 and led commissioning of the Bridgwater dairy and logistics for the South Region, Rob has since played a leading roles in operations, logistics, milk supply and commercial giving him knowledge of the whole supply chain from farm gate to customer.

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.


Terry Jones

NFU Director General

Terry Jones re-joined the NFU as its Director General in April 2016. For five years previously he had been running food industry trade associations. In 2011 he joined the Food & Drink Federation (FDF) as its Director of Communications, where he sought to bring to life how food manufacturers could deliver increased rates of sustainable growth.

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

Dr Zoe Leach leads the NFU East Anglia regional team, spearheading their work across a region with a total agricultural output of £3.4 billion.

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.”


Aimee Mahony

Chief adviser (poultry), National Farmers' Union

Aimee joined the NFU as poultry adviser in 2016 following four years working in the egg sector for Noble Foods.

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.

Assad Malic

Chief Communications and Sustainability Officer, Greene King

Assad joined Greene King in May 2022 from Currys plc, where he was group director of corporate affairs and strategy, which included leading its sustainability strategy.

His previous experiences includes 17 years in investment banking with banks such as Credit Suisse and Citigroup.

Stefan Meldau

R&D Group Lead: Biotic Stress, KWS

Stefan is the R&D Group Lead on Biotic Stress at KWS. With a PhD in Plant Biochemistry and an MBA in Agribusiness from the University of Göttingen, he joined KWS in 2013 as R&D Project Lead on yield in cereals and sugar beet.

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

Since 2018 Christine has led the UK’s approach on numerous workstreams ranging from global animal health issues, biosecurity and disease risk management, and trade and market access agreements.

She has been instrumental in the government’s tireless efforts to manage the unprecedented ongoing outbreak of avian influenza in the UK.


David Miles

Director, The Retail Mind

David is a director of The Retail Mind, a full-service groceries retail consultancy practice

He has over 30 years’ retail and manufacturing experience, mostly on the buying side but also as seller and producer.


Clare Morgan

Mixed farmer, Fenton Home Farm

Clare farms in partnership with her husband, Stephen, near Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire. 

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.

Karen Morgan

Deputy Director, Department for International Trade

Karen is Deputy Director responsible for DIT's (Department for International Trade) agriculture food and drink team, leading on the Department’s support for exports and investment in this sector. She has a background in trade, environment and agriculture policy and negotiations.

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.

James Mottershead

NFU Poultry Board chair (West Midlands member)

James is a broiler producer from Shropshire and produces his own feed rations through on farm home mixing, feeding his birds a mash-based diet.

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.


Michael Oakes

NFU Dairy Board chair

A tenant farmer on the southern outskirts of Birmingham, Michael milks a closed herd of 180 pedigree Holsteins.

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.


Marion Regan

Managing Director, Hugh Lowe Farms Ltd

Having studied Botany and Horticulture at Oxford, Maryland and Wye College, Marion joined her UK family farming business, Hugh Lowe Farms Ltd, growing soft fruit and arable crops in Kent.

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.

Verity Richards

Dairy policy specialist, National Farmers' Union

Verity has been with the NFU for nearly seven years, starting on the graduate scheme before originally joining the dairy team back in 2017.

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.

Tim Rooke

NFU Potato Forum chair

Tim was elected as chair of the NFU Potato Forum in 2022. He is a third generation farmer who grows 600 acres of processing and crisping potatoes in Yorkshire.

He farms in partnership with his brother and has a mixture of tenanted and owned farms. He also grows wheat, oats, and oilseed rape.


Michael Sly

NFU Sugar Board chair

Michael chairs NFU Sugar Board meetings and is the lead spokesperson representing sugar beet growers with British Sugar, the media, NFU Council and NFU Policy Board. He represents growers in monthly meetings and annual contract negotiations with British Sugar, playing a key role in the NFU Sugar negotiating team.

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

Dr Lydia Smith is Director of NIAB IF (Innovation Farm) and EAIH (Eastern Agritech Innovation Hub). The IF is a farmer-facing physical and virtual capability enabling knowledge exchange, discussion and demonstration.

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.

Simon Smith

Director of Customer Relations, Aubrey Allen Ltd

Simon Smith is Director of Customer Relations at Aubrey Allen butchers who supply the royal household and many top Chefs including Raymond Blanc, Roux Brothers and James Martin.

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)

Mark Spencer is the Minister of State for Farming, Fisheries and Food and Conservative MP for Sherwood.

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

Prior to becoming an MP, Keir was a human rights lawyer. He co-founded Doughty Street Chambers in 1990, and conducted cases in a wide range of international courts, including the European Court of Human Rights.

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

Professor Mark Stevens is Head of Science at the British Beet Research Organisation. He is an applied biologist by training and more specifically a plant pathologist (particularly viruses), and has investigated the impact, control and epidemiology of pests and diseases especially rhizomania and virus yellows.

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.


Paul Tompkins

NFU Dairy Board vice chair

Paul farms alongside his wife in the Vale of York.

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.


Derek Wilkinson

NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board vice chair

Derek has been vice chair of the NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board since 2018. He is Managing Director of Sandfields Farms Ltd (part of The Shropshire Group).

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.

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