Expanding the union’s membership – from its current base of 55,000 – is vital for two reasons, said Jones, who took over the helm of the union after two years at the Provision Trade Federation and a spell at the Food and Drink Federation. Attracting new members was important for the union’s financial stability, he conceded.
But an even more powerful incentive has emerged, as Brexit looms and the government begins to plan a domestic farm policy to replace the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Jones viewed growing membership as critically important to lending weight to the union’s work in lobbying the government.
Lobbying the government
“Attracting more members is also important when we consider our relationship with government. We need to represent a lot of farmers and we need to represent an increasing number.”
Those extra members add to the strength of the NFU’s voice at a critical time as government decides its policy on a range of topics that directly impact the profitability of farmers and, indirectly, their food manufacturing clients.
Topping the list of lobbying topics for the NFU are guarantees about access to a competent and reliable workforce of non-UK nationals, how to ensure tariff-free entry to the EU market and influencing government plans for a domestic policy to replace CAP.
Forge a shared voice
His second objective as director general is to help forge a shared voice – mainly for farming, but also, to some extent, for the wider food industry, with which to communicate both to the public and to government.
Jones believed the current farming industry had been forged in the fires of adversity and emerged that much stronger, after the challenges of foot and mouth disease and the horsemeat crisis.
His final aim is to keep a strict focus on the priorities that directly affect the union’s membership.
Don't miss our exclusive video interview with Jones about his views on attracting top talent to the industry and Food Manufacture's Big Interview, were he explains in more detail the importance of finding on industry voice ahead of Brexit and beyond.