'Ten years is a long time': NFU president Minette Batters to step down

By Teodora Lyubomirova

- Last updated on GMT

Minette Batters speaks at the NFU's emergency 'Fairness for farmers and growers' press conference. Image: NFU
Minette Batters speaks at the NFU's emergency 'Fairness for farmers and growers' press conference. Image: NFU

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Having led the farming union through Brexit, COVID-19 and the uncertainties brought about by Russia's war in Ukraine, Batters has been one of British agriculture's most respected voices.

Minette Batters has confirmed she will step down from her position as National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president in February 2024.

Batters was elected president in 2018, becoming the NFU’s first female president since the organization was formed in 1908. She was twice re-elected, most recently in February 2022, and is currently serving a third two-year term. Prior to that, Batters was deputy president from 2014 to 2018.

In the NFU Magazine's October edition, Batters wrote: "Ten years is a long time and I know I've given it my all but it's time for someone else to take the lead. But in the meantime, there's a huge job to be done and I remain determined to deliver what's needed for you, our members."

Batters has been a vocal advocate for all of UK agriculture and one of the industry’s most recognizable voices in lobbying government over the past decade.

In 2020, she succeeded in uniting a diverse body of organizations, from chefs and farmers to consumer groups and welfare experts, in supporting the NFU food standards petition calling on the government to set out minimum standards for food imports. The petition attracted more than one million signatures and highlighted the importance of putting food standards at the forefront of government priorities when trade deals are being negotiated post-Brexit.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Batters wrote to then Defra minister George Eustice MP, stating that farmers were ‘failing to understand’ why Defra hadn’t been swift enough in addressing the  significant disruption’ that farmers faced, adding that ministers should ‘unequivocally and vocally back a vigorous campaign for British farm produce to be the premier supplier of choice to UK consumers and government during and beyond this COVID-19 outbreak’. 

In the months that followed, the NFU led the national response for government, representing all of UK agriculture and horticulture, including launching an online service aimed at capturing farm business issues related to the pandemic.

As the war in Ukraine broke out, the importance of food and energy security and home-grown food production became a key topic for NFU and its president. Batters also met with newly-appointed UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak just over a month into his premiership to drive home the challenges farmers faced, from seasonal worker availability to continued support during the energy crisis. “I hope this meeting and the Prime Minister’s commitment to ensuring Britain has a thriving food and sector will mark a turning point in how our government values and prioritises the production of home-grown food, and demonstrates this government does back British farming,” said Batters.

Batters meets UK prime minister Rishi Sunak

While Batters has been president during Conservative-led government, she has been committed to cross-party campaigning. During her tenure, Labour Party leader Sir Kier Starmer became the first Labour leader in a decade to address the annual NFU Conference in 2021, which he repeated in 2023. Reacting to his address, Batters highlighted the importance of ‘meaningful policies’: “It’s easy to be all things to all people when in opposition. We need meaningful policies now, to back all of this up.”
In 2023, Batters criticized the government's Spring Budget, calling it "extremely disappointing" that the Energy and Trade Intensive Industries scheme had not been extended to include horticulture and poultry. “It begs the question – where does boosting Britain’s food security fit into the Treasury’s growth plans?”

The NFU president's tenure also saw the union agree a net zero target by 2040. "Our ambition for a net zero contribution to climate change across the whole of agricultural production by 2040 is a national aspiration, not an expectation that every farm can reach net zero," Batters said. "Every farm will start the journey to net zero from a different place and will need a unique action plan."

Batters runs a 300-acre mixed farm in Wiltshire, England, which includes a 100-cow continental cross suckler herd as well as sheep and arable. The NFU president also has a catering business, having converted a 17th​ century tithe barn into a wedding and corporate events venue. She also co-founded Ladies in Beef and the Great British Beef Week.

The NFU, which represents more than 50,000 farmers and growers across England and Wales, is due to hold elections in the next few months since the next term runs from 2024 to 2026.

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