Hill farmer Peter is new NFU chairman

Peter Atkin, new chair of NFU
Peter Atkin, new chair of NFU

Hill farmer, Peter Atkin from Rowlee Farm, Bamford is Derbyshire NFU’s new county chairman.

Peter farms 1,300 hectares, all rented from the National Trust, running 750 Swaledale ewes crossed with Swaledale and Lonk tups and finishing all his lambs for meat. He farms in partnership with his three daughters and son in law.

Peter takes over for his two-year term as chairman, from Etwall farmer Angela Sargent, at the NFU’s national conference in Birmingham, next week.

“My farm is grass, rocks and bracken with a bit of heather mixed in,” says Peter. “So, there’s not much opportunity to grow any other crops, or run other enterprises. One of my great concerns at the moment is the intervention of government and outside bodies in how farmers farm. Derbyshire’s uplands have been farmed in a traditional ways for centuries, looking after the landscape and the wildlife, so short-term interventions won’t help: my thinking is, if it isn’t broke, it doesn’t need fixing. And we need to ensure that it is active farmers who are receiving industry support, especially here in the hills. There is a proposal under the CAP reform proposals to define an “active farmer”; let’s hope that it is real farmers who are eligible for both support and environmental payments.

“I’m also concerned about how we continue to help and support the tenanted sector: about a third of farmers are tenants. We need to ensure they can make a reasonable return after rents to keep them farming. And often renting a farm is the first rung on the ladder for new entrants into the industry; if we don’t have those farms with houses and buildings available at a reasonable price, then how will our industry attract new blood?”

Peter has been active in NFU in Derbyshire and nationally, for many years, his past posts include branch chairman for Hope Valley NFU and he was a national delegate for the county on the NFU’s Hill Framing committee in the 1980s.

The NFU’s annual conference takes place at the International Conference Centre, Birmingham, on Tuesday February 21 and Wednesday February 22 and includes the elections for NFU officeholders for the next two years. Full details of the conference, which promises to be challenging, interesting and forward-looking, can be found at www.nfuonline.com