Conference Calling: List of speakers announced for international agricultural event coming to the UK this summer.

Countries encompassing the alphabet – from Australia to Zambia – will be represented at the 30th Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth (RASC) Conference.

The event, which is being hosted in Scotland, was founded in 1957 by the late Duke of Edinburgh Prince Phillip, who served as President for half a century before handing over the reins to his daughter HRH, The Princess Royal.

Speakers have just been announced and include – as would be expected – a truly international mix.

Among a number of speakers from the USA will be Renee Alexander, the CEO of the Minnesota State Fair, which is attended by a staggering two million visitors each year. President of the Agricultural & Commercial Society of Zambia, Dr Bernard Moonga, will be sharing his experiences. Familiar faces from the British rural scene, such as former National Farmers’ Union (NFU) President Minette Batters, will also be taking to the stage.

John Bennett, an Australian farmer and trustee of RASC, said the covid-forced cancellation of the last conference, in 2020, has resulted in a great deal of excitement about this year’s event, which will take place in Edinburgh between Tuesday 25th to Thursday 27th June 2024. 

“I am very much looking forward to coming to Scotland for the 2024 conference,” he said. 

“To anybody still wondering about buying a ticket, my simple message is to get yourself there. 

“It doesn’t matter whereabouts in the world somebody comes from, if you are interested in agriculture or are part of an agricultural show society you will find plenty to talk about. It never ceases to amaze me how much we all have in common and I will be forever grateful for the network of people around the world that I can give a call to, or send an email, to ask for their help and advice. Working together has never been more important than at the moment with challenges such as climate change; it’s vital to be aware of scientific developments – to get the global picture.” 

The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland has been instrumental in securing the conference, which is traditionally held every two years and draws the bulk of its delegates from agricultural show societies across the world. A key element of the conference is its Next Generation sessions, with many delegates aged under 40 supported to attend with scholarship places. 

Among those speaking to a special session of this younger audience will be fifth generation dairy farmer Jim Shanks, who has diversified to become Scotland’s only commercial producer of tomatoes and Claire Taylor, who grew up on a small beef farm and went on to work as a writer for the BBC and the Scottish Farmer. She is currently doing a Nuffield Scholarship on “changing the tide on the anti-farming agenda.” 28-year-old Ben McClymont was recently appointed NFU Scotland Next Generation Chairman and will be speaking to the young delegates out on the farm – which has several diversifications – that he manages.

Farmer Tom Martin – founder of the hugely successful Farmer Time project – declared himself delighted to be asked to speak to the Next Generation delegates as he credits attending the conference with inspiring him to launch the initiative. Back in 2016 Cambridgeshire arable and regenerative farmer Tom attended the RASC Conference in Singapore; an experience he hailed as “highly life-changing”. The following year, in 2017, he launched ‘Farmer Time’ (formerly called FaceTime a Farmer) which pairs farmers with school classes.

Tom, who was supported financially by the East of England Agricultural Society to attend the conference, said: “I took so much from that conference. Without the jump start, leg up and inspiration of the RASC conference there would be no Farmer Time.”

This year’s landmark event will have the theme Growing a Commonwealth and gather speakers, sessions, and topics from across the Commonwealth at Edinburgh’s Gogarburn Conference Centre. A Gala Dinner will be hosted in the members’ pavilion of the Royal Highland Showground and for those who arrive in Scotland before the actual conference, there will be farm visits and guided tours, along with the chance to attend the Royal Highland Show.  

Apart from the exchange of ideas on the secure and sustainable use of the world’s natural resources, the RASC’s mission is to promote the development of agriculture, forestry, aquaculture and the rural environment. In addition to improving farming standards and the rural economy, the conference aims to improve awareness among the public and consumers about agriculture and rural concerns. Another aim is to encourage and support farming and the rural economy’s message.

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