Former NFU president appointed as Organic Research Centre chairman

Former NFU president Tim Bennett has been appointed as the new chairman of the Organic Research Centre (ORC) Council of Management.

Bennett’s appointment follows the planned retirement of long-standing chairman Mike Turnbull.

Turnbull spent the past eight years both as a trustee and chairman of ORC, the UK’s leading independent research centre for organic food production and land management solutions.

His successor Tim Bennett brings more than 40 years of experience in the food and farming supply chain.

As well as running an organic farm in south Wales, he has served as NFU president, as chairman of Defra’s dairy Environmental Task Force and as chairman of the Food Standards Agency.

Currently, Bennett chairs the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Livestock (CIEL), working with twelve University partners and Innovate UK to invest in new applied livestock research capabilities around the UK.

This investment of over £70 million is the largest in new livestock applied research capacity for a generation and the successful partnership has resulted in the largest alliance of livestock researchers in Europe.

Bennett said: “It was a great honour to be asked to take over the chair of the ORC. I want to thank Mike Turnbull for his incredible efforts over the last few years on behalf of ORC and particularly over the last year in delivering the farm sale that has created the opportunity to invest funds to create a more sustainable organisation.

I am a first-generation farmer with a mainly organic grassland farm near Carmarthen in South Wales very close to the National Botanic Garden of Wales (which is also organic). We converted to organic production 13 years ago.

“The ORC is implementing a robust strategy that will make our organisation even more relevant as the UK moves to a more sustainable farming future.

“Our business plan recognises the value of building solid partnerships that are focussed on carrying out the right research and sharing it with the relevant audiences.

“Although the Covid-19 pandemic has caused disruption throughout the whole food supply chain, one positive outcome is that this will hopefully lead to a more evidence-based debate about the future of food production in the UK.

“I think that the ORC will continue to be a key contributor to this debate, as part of helping to create industry solutions that are based on sound science.”

Outgoing chairman Mike Turnbull added: “I am looking forward to having a rest. I am eagerly anticipating being able to spend more time with my family, particularly my grandchildren.

“At the ORC, we have come through some challenging times together, and following the recent changes, I am confident that the organisation is well placed now to make its much-deserved breakthrough into the wider national consciousness as a leading player in the UK and indeed international organic scene.”