29 April 2020, 14:20 PM
  • Tim Bennett, former NFU president, takes over from Mike Turnbull as chair of its Council of Management at The Organic Research Centre
Former NFU president takes on chairmanship of Organic Research Centre

The Organic Research Centre (ORC) is the UK’s leading independent research centre for organic food production and land management solutions. Following the planned retirement of current chair Mike Turnbull, the ORC have announced the appointment of Tim Bennett, who brings more than 40 years’ experience in the food and farming industry to the role. He has previously served as NFU President, chairman of Defra’s dairy Environmental Task Force and chair of the Food Standards Agency, alongside running an organic dairy farm in South Wales.

“It was a great honour to be asked to take over the chair of the ORC,” Tim said. “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.”

Tim is currently the chair for the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Livestock, which saw him working with 12 university partners alongside Innovate UK to invest over £70m in new applied livestock research capabilities around the UK. This is the largest investment for a generation and has led to the largest alliance of researchers in Europe.

While a national lockdown makes this a tricky time to start a new role, Tim is confident about the future of his industry: “I foresee that, if there is a silver lining to the black cloud that is Covid-19, it will be that society attributes greater value to evidence-based debate. Research and industry collaboration are at the heart of well-directed innovation and this will be my primary focus in my new role as Chair of the Organic Research Centre (ORC).

“Organic agriculture and horticulture have a vital role to play in improving soils and ecosystems which is great for the environment, but also vital for a healthy and resilient UK food supply chain.

“In lots of ways despite the present challenges, there is now an opportunity to capitalise on the increased public interest in UK food production systems. This could lead to a change in purchasing habits which would benefit consumers and the long-term health of the nation.

‘This means not only initiating lively debate within the industry; we must also support consumers in their food purchasing decisions - with the long-term goal of bringing about shorter, more local supply chains, as well as improving national self-sufficiency through sustainable farming systems. In my mind, this starts with formulating solutions that are based on sound science which is central to the ORC’s function.”

Retiring chair Mike Turnbull believes that the ORC is well equipped to cope with challenging times, especially in light of the current situation: “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.”

Mike has served as a consistent and reliable figure over his eight years as chair, and successfully overseen many changes in the organisation, from the headquarter’s move to Trent Lodge in Cirencester to the recent appointment of Lucy MacLennan as chief executive. He is looking forward to spending more time with his family in his retirement.

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