Shropshire Star

Oxford Farming Conference was 'valuable experience' for graduate surveyor

A graduate surveyor has described the opportunity to attend last week’s Oxford Farming Conference as a “valuable experience”.

Kate Oakes

Kate Oakes, from the rural professional team at Halls’ head office in Shrewsbury, said: “It was encouraging to be in a room with people looking to find solutions rather than problems.”

She represented Staffordshire YFC at the three-day conference after being awarded a delegate place by Staffordshire & Birmingham Agricultural Society.

“The conference was a really valuable experience to hear about the most progressive farming techniques and practices that are emerging and that will hopefully come to the forefront in 2024,” added Kate,.

“It was useful to hear how farmers running real businesses are utilising sustainable and regenerative techniques, that are part of the Sustainable Farming Incentive, in a way that is increasing productivity and decreasing input costs.

“I think that attending the conference was of great benefit to me, as someone in the early stages of her career. It was great to ‘have my finger on the pulse’, so to speak, regarding policy making and emerging schemes.”

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Steve Barclay announced, at the conference, an additional 50 Sustainable Farming Incentive and Countryside Stewardship Options for 2024, adding to those that were available in 2023.

In addition, he announced that payment rates were being increased by an average of 10 per cent across the programmes.

“My highlight was hearing from multiple speakers with a progressive mindset that were all hopeful for the future of farming,” said Kate. “At present the agricultural industry is undergoing some of the biggest changes in policy and practice since the Second World War.

“But the conference summed up that, although the industry can be a scary place for farmers at the moment, with challenge comes opportunity.”

The first day of the conference discussed building climate resilience and the impacts of extreme weather, including droughts and flooding, on all farming enterprises – from livestock to arable and fresh produce.

Day two featured talks on regenerative agriculture, diverse cropping and an announcement on the expansion of the SFI scheme.

The final day included talks on the diverse role of livestock, encouraging new entrants into farming and financial resilience.

Conference speakers included The Princess Royal, Steve Reed, OBE, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minette Batters, NFU president and Jonathan Baker, DEFRA deputy director.

Kate’s full report from the conference is at

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