A trip to Brussels as part of young journalists group from member Guilds of the the European Network of Agricultural Journalists (ENAJ) gave British Guild members Hayley Mace, marketing manager at Anglia Farmers, and Ben Briggs, news and business editor on Farmers Guardian, an insight into the workings of European Union governing bodies.
Hayley Mace (back row, fourth from left; and below) and Ben Briggs (front row, seventh from right) were looked after in Brussels by British Guild Member, EC agriculture spokesman Roger Waite (front row, sixth from right) and ENAJ vice-chairman Katharina Seuser (front row, far left).
The two-day trip, attended by 22 young journalists from 17 countries, included visits to and workshops at the European Commission, Council and Parliament.
John McClintock, from DG Agri, talked the group through the history of the Common Agricultural Policy and British Guild member Roger Waite, EC Spokesperson for Agriculture and Rural Development, discussed current reforms and how these will affect farmers across the EU.
The second day saw the group travel into Flanders, with a visit to a vegetable farm, a tour of a large cheese factory run by dairy co-operative Milcobel and a tour of the Cid Lines hygiene products factory.
Hayley said: “It was a really interesting trip. Visiting the different EU institutions has given me a much clearer understanding of how they all work and the workshops on CAP were invaluable.
“Perhaps the most valuable part, however, was meeting the journalists from other countries and hearing about their work and farming in other parts of Europe,” she added. “Hearing about the impact of the Russian import sanctions on farmers in Poland and Finland, for example, was really interesting.”
The group has already made moves to keep in touch by circulating contact details, photos and video clips from the trip.
“I’m sure they will all become useful contacts in future,” says Hayley.
And Ben was equally effusive.
“I am not normally given to gush praise about overseas trips,” writes Ben, “especially being a northern farmer’s son, it is not in my nature.
“But this trip was different. As well as getting to see the machinations of the European bureacratic process up close and come away with a much better understanding of the decisions which affect UK farmers, we were also able to forge friendships with fellow young journalists from across Europe.
“It was a genuinely fantastic trip and I would urge all eligible Guild members to take part if they get the chance.
“The trip to Milcobel, while allowing us to sample some of fantastic Belgian cheese and beer, gave a brilliant insight into the pressures faced by all the EU dairy industry at this time of turmoil.
“Visiting Tyne Cot memorial and Flanders’ Fields was also truly humbling.
“Make sure you sign up in future given the chance.”
Article provided courtesy of Peter Hill, communications officer for the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists