MINETTE BATTERS, the first female vice president of the English NFU, discussed the struggles women face, developing a career in farming.

Speaking at the Women in Agriculture conference in Gogarburn, Edinburgh hosted by chair June Geyer, Ms Batters recounted how, as she grew up on a tenant farm, her father was adamant she would never enter in to farming.

“Women struggle with the art of self-belief more than our male counterparts and often are shy when it comes to speaking out in the industry,” she said. “I found it really daunting being the first women VP in the NFU as nothing prepares you when you have built your own business at home.

“There have been no layers of HR, you’re looking after the kids, doing the accounts, running the business with little support, so to come in to the corporate structure was a real eye opener.”

In her role within the ENFU – which she juggles alongside looking after her two young twins, running a pedigree beef farm and running a prosperous wedding business – she is passionate about ensuring the best outcome for UK farming from the impending Brexit, and believes women have an important role to play in that process and shaping the future of the industry.

“It will be down to UK farmers to fight for our industry, we have to work together as devolved nations to agree on a framework and be clear about what we have to offer individually and as a whole,” she said. “There are huge opportunities UK wide which we need to capitalise on, for example, we need to do more to support and promote Welsh lamb and Scottish beef as we are facing the most savage retail price war in living history and we simply can’t compete against the likes of Argentinian beef.

“Women are a great force for progress as we are good collaborators, we have an ability to identify problems and work out solutions,” she suggested. “Anything I can do to empower women to come forward and play a role in shaping their future I will get behind them.

“We sometimes as women put ourselves in a box and don’t realise we are business women in our own right and have an important role to play in the future of agriculture in this country. Brexit is going to be a game changer and we can step up and make a difference.”

During a panel discussion which involved Fergus Ewing’s four Scottish agriculture ‘champions’, who will be influencing and guiding ScotGov policy, former NFU president John Kinnaird, who is leading government talks on sustainability, made some impactful comments on how the industry should view Brexit.

“Brexit is a challenge and an opportunity – what we currently have doesn’t work or deliver for farmers, so we should embrace Brexit as an opportunity to change that,” said Mr Kinnaird.

“We will as an industry adapt to what Brexit throws at us but until we hear those parameters we will continue to struggle to plan.

“We have to remember it is public money, so we need to justify why we have a right to that money over other sectors. We are starting with a blank piece of paper and it is important we set the strategy and one that goes beyond any governmental term, which is all part of the challenge.

“There are lots of things to address going forward and as an industry we need to be progressive, resilient and compliant.”