Farmer leading scientific studies takes over as chairman of Northamptonshire branch of NFU

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The Northamptonshire branch of the National Farmers’ Union has a new chairman.

Phil Jarvis, head of farming at Leicestershire’s Allerton Project is the new county chairmen for NFU in Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland. He takes up his post following the NFU’s national conference at the end of February and follows Moulton, Northampton farmer, Richard Harris.

Mr Jarvis, who has worked at the Loddington-based research farm since 1992 has a Masters degree in Sustainable Agricultural Management from Harper Adams University. The 800-acre farm is run commercially, but hosts a wide range of scientific studies on issues as diverse as game and wildlife ecology, soil and water management and catchment sensitive farming, on behalf of many research and educational organisations. The Project is administered by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).

“I’m taking the NFU chairman’s role at an interesting but challenging time for agriculture in the three counties,” Mr Jarvis said.

“Many farming businesses are finding their margins under severe pressure, particularly our dairy and arable farmers and we know from NFU’s own surveys that confidence in the future has declined. But farmers are pragmatic people, and despite setbacks and gloomy predictions, we are optimists,” he added.

“Farming’s future is bright, as a growing world population and advances in technology mean that professional agriculture has an incredibly strong future.”

The Allerton Project’s 800 acres grow a range of arable crops and the farm’s permanent grassland is grazed by a flock of Mule sheep. A joint venture agreement with a neighbouring farm enables the fixed costs to be spread over a wider acreage. Both farms have adopted minimum tillage methods for soil conservation.

Mr Jarvis added: “My two years will go like a flash, no doubt, but my aim is to work for our farmers and to get across some strong messages on how we can use technology and science coupled with sound arable husbandry principles to grow safe and high quality food, whilst looking after the environment. Farming profitability is key but we need to take our environmental responsibilities extremely seriously and at the same time recognise how farming is integral to our local communities.

“Here at Loddington, our visitor centre is run with the help of the local WI, so we know how important it is to be involved with and have the support of, the local community.

“The myriad of issues facing farmers constantly jostle for attention on the policy agenda. For example, bovine TB is important as our counties are in the Defra-defined “Edge area” and dairy and beef producers are therefore subject to very tight controls on the testing and movement of cattle, with further measures to curb the spread of this terrible disease possibly being announced this spring. The new Basic Payment Scheme, which will be implemented this year brings new challenges in terms of ecological focus areas, the three crop rule and the “digital by default” requirement that producers can only register and claim on-line. Without a doubt, the words “challenging time for farmers” have never been truer.”

Mr Jarvis and his wife, Ruth, keep a flock of rare-breed Leicester Longwool sheep at Loddington. The flock of 17 ewes provides high quality, long-staple wool much sought after by spinners and knitters. Already the couple have received orders for wool from Canada and Holland. More information about the sheep and wool sales can be found here

Mr Jarvis added: “Wool, as well as meat sales from rare-breed sheep are important for the long-term future of the breed and maintaining the genetic diversity of our native sheep breeds is an issue close to our hearts.”