The new chairman of Suffolk NFU is urgingfarmers to help build public support for agriculture.
George Gittus, who farms at Great Saxham,near Bury St Edmunds said there was a real opportunity for British farming tocapitalise on events such as last years horsemeat scandal
Farmers do a really good job of producingquality food and looking after the environment.
Its up to everyone to keep that positivemessage going forward and to explain at every opportunity what we do and why wedo it, he said.
When I get the chance to talk to the publicabout how farming has changed, most people are really interested and are amazedabout what is happening.
Georges family has farmed in west Suffolkfor more than 150 years. As well as arable cropping, the farm includes anoutdoor pig enterprise, a business park and a newly- developed anaerobicdigestion plant, a joint venture with another Suffolk business, Material-Change.
Rather than having all our eggs in onebasket weve got a foot in different camps and the four areas of the businessfit together very well, he said.
The business park supplies the farm with asteady income and the AD plant supplies renewable energy to our tenants. Wealso grow forage maize and forage rye for the AD plant as part of our croprotation.
George studied at the Royal AgriculturalCollege in Gloucestershire and worked on farms in Cornwall, Scotland, Australiaand the USA before returning to the family farm in the early 1990s.
Id been wanting to farm since I was a fewyears old. I didnt have to go into agriculture but the opportunity was thereif I wanted to do it – and you do have to want to do it. Like a lot of familybusinesses it is all-consuming, he said.
As well as CAP reform, he believes thatwater security will be a key issue for Suffolk farmers over the next few years.The farm business includes a 20 million gallon reservoir, which is primarilyused to irrigate 100 acres of potatoes.
Water is becoming increasingly important.We all need to act responsibly when it comes to using water but I think we do agood job collectively as an industry, he said.
He is also concerned about rural broadbandand mobile phone coverage in Suffolk and believes it is vital that thesituation improves.
The mobile signal appears to be gettingworse in rural areas, with masts being lost. Everyone expects to have completecoverage but the situation is not getting any better.
The situation has to be reversed or therewill be a complete two-tier system the rural and the urban. For farmbusinesses that have been encouraged to diversify they will find themselvesstruggling to continue if both of these services dont improve, he said.
George is married to Jayne, a farmersdaughter from Leicestershire. Jayne is instrumental in looking after the healthand safety portfolio for the company and also runs a bed and breakfastbusiness. The couple have two children,Freddie, 20, who is studying at Harper Adams and Hetty, 18, studying geographyat Durham University.
He succeeds Richard Scott as chairman at theNFU annual conference in Birmingham on 26 February. His first job as countychairman will be to help elect the NFUs new officeholder team of president,deputy president and vice-president.