Oxford Debate Returns to Highland Show 2018

RHS debate

Following a successful debut in 2017, The Oxford Farming Conference is bringing its famous union debate to the Royal Highland Show for the second time. In Scotland’s Year of Young People, this year the panellists are all young people living and working in Scotland’s land-based sectors, who will be debating “this house believes in paying farmers for more than food”. The debate, which is open to anyone attending the Highland Show, is sponsored by Brodies LLP and will take place in the Shearing Centre on Thursday 21st June at 1.30pm.

The Oxford Farming Conference, held every January, hosts a debate in the famous Oxford University Union. In recent years, the debate has been rolled out to Cereals and, in 2017, to the Highland Show. This year’s debate organiser and OFC Director, Sally Williams, who is a dairy farmer from South East Scotland, said:

We are currently experiencing a once in a lifetime opportunity to set the agenda and really shape policy which will have a meaningful impact on rural Scotland. In the Year of Young People, I can think of no better way to explore the possibilities than with an all-young panel, who will be living with the outcome in the years ahead. They are the future of rural Scotland after all and it is important to hear their differing perspectives and aspirations, and to discuss, challenge and promote it with an audience of all ages. I am delighted that Oxford Farming Conference is able to provide such a platform.”

The debate will be chaired by Anna Hill, BBC presenter on Farming Today, and the panel includes David Lawrie, National Chairman of the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs; Sarah Millar of the Soil Association, who is also on Fergus Ewing’s National Council for Rural Advisors and a vlogger for the Rural Youth Project; Megan Rowland, 2018 Lantra Learner of the Year, studying game and wildlife management; and Colin Ferguson, dairy farmer and Scottish Enterprise Rural Leader.

The union debate is a highlight and annual sell-out of the conference in Oxford. It draws interesting, and often high-profile speakers and lively input from the floor and engages the audience in topical matters in the industry. Last year, the OFC Chairman and Scot, Caroline Millar, brought the OFC debate to Scotland for the first time, in order to give the agricultural community at the Highland Show an opportunity to debate the future of agriculture outside the European Union.

Colin Ferguson, 29-year-old dairy farmer from the South-West of Scotland said,

“I’m delighted to be invited to speak on the young diverse panel at the Highland Show debate. It’s important that the future of the industry is able to have their voice heard and on such a contentious topic. Typically, UK citizens spend just 7% of annual income on food compared to 40% in 1940s, is it therefore right that farmers are still paid subsidy to produce food cheaply?”

Following the debate, a reception will be hosted by Scotland’s rural college, SRUC, for former and present OFC Directors, Emerging Leaders and Scholars from previous years.

The Oxford Union Debate is free to attend for all members of the agricultural and rural community attending the Royal Highland Show, but due to limited space, places must be secured by registering for the event here. Places will be allocated on first-come, first-served basis.