AN organic grassland farmer and former NFU president from west Wales has been appointed chairman of the Organic Research Centre (ORC) council of management.

Tim Bennett’s appointment follows the planned retirement of longstanding chair, Mike Turnbull, who has spent the past eight years both as a trustee and chair of ORC, the UK’s leading independent research centre for organic food production and land management solutions.

Tim brings more than 40 years’ experience in the food and farming supply chain. As well as running an organic farm n ear Carmarthen, he has served as NFU president, as chairman of Defra’s dairy environmental task force and as chair of the Food Standards Agency.

Currently, Tim is the chair of the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Livestock; working with 12 university partners and Innovate UK to invest in new applied livestock research capabilities around the UK.

This investment of over £70m 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.

Tim commented: “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.”