NBA appoints new Chair with clear agenda for the future of the British beef industry
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Current Chair of the NBA SW region and a recent Member of the AHDB Beef and Lamb Council, Robert comes to his new role with a track record of effective action on the industry’s behalf. He also brings an agenda to tackle some of the industry’s thorniest issues, including the development of post-Brexit export markets and Red Tractor quality assurance.
A farmer’s son who remembers many happy days showing at the Royal, Robert Venner still keeps a “handful” of pedigree Aberdeen Angus on his Woodington Farm in Devon, but his career in the livestock industry has centred on the auction ring. After completing his education at the Royal Agricultural College, he began his career as an auctioneer with Bruton Knowles at Gloucester market. In 1992 he joined Greenslade Hunt to work at the Taunton and Bridgewater markets. In 2008 he moved with Greenslade Taylor Hunt to Sedgemoor Auction Centre where today he is the Partner in charge of Sedgemoor Livestock Auction Market.
As an auctioneer from a farming family, Robert has been deeply involved in the ups and downs of the livestock industry, and in efforts to resolve some of its most difficult problems. “Compared to the years of BSE and FMD, the cattle trade in recent times has been a dream, and long may it last. But we still face fundamental, longstanding threats to our future, including TB, and we have to find a way to address some major new challenges in the post-Brexit future of farming in the UK,” he said.
Robert has always tried to be more than an auctioneer for the benefit of the farming community. He chaired the set-up of 15 badger cull areas, for example, resulting in a dramatic reduction in the incidence of TB in cattle in those areas, and a resurgence in the dwindling hedgehog population.
In his recently completed six-year term on the AHDB Beef and Lamb Council, he focussed the Council’s attention on marketing, something previously overlooked with respect to beef. Working with Colin Rowland and Neil Parish, amongst others, Robert helped to initiate the Call for Views and subsequent Levy Payer Survey that persuaded the leadership of the AHDB to listen to their Levy Payers.
That experience has helped shape the new NBA Chair’s commitment to listen to the membership of his organisation, and to leverage as much influence as possible in high places.
“I look forward to my time as Chair of the NBA primarily for the political access it will give me. Potential trade deals will be a particular interest. Encouraging access for exports but not undermining home production with imports will be the objective – Liz Truss’s antics in the Southern hemisphere being a glaring example of how not to do it,” he said.
Finding a pragmatic solution to the Red Tractor problem will also be on Robert’s agenda. “This might be an unsolvable conundrum and one which is probably wiser left to someone else to sort. But the NBA should never shy away from difficult situations and ‘do what is right, come what may’ has always been a guiding principle I have found to be reliable.”
Robert Venner is grateful to inherit the Chair for an organisation that he is confident will give him a powerful platform to effect change for the benefit of the UK beef industry.
“I would like to start my tenure by congratulating and thanking Andrew Laughton for his stewardship of the NBA in recent years. Together with our CEO Neil Shand, he has steered the NBA to a position of great efficacy, and I look forward to working closely with Neil, my Vice Chair Ben Harman, and the existing Board to build on their success.
“The NBA has already created a very strong team, but I hope I can persuade more farmers to join the board. If you’re a regionally strategic and industry motivated beef farmer, don’t be surprised if you receive a call from either Neil or myself asking you to become involved.”