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Peter Hill

Another successful format for Guild annual meeting

Published on 17th March 2012

The Guild annual meeting, held at the Malmaison Hotel in The Mailbox, Birmingham, introduced another new format and programme to keep the event fresh. Before visiting the BBC offices and studios in the same building (see separate report), there were formalties to deal with, including the re-election of the Guild's enthusiastic and supportive president, Somerset farmer Lord Cameron of Dillington, and chairman Adrian Bell.

The Stuart Seaton award for farming and rural affairs journalism in a regional newspaper was awarded - see separate report on the Awards page - and rule changes were adopted by members at the meeting.

As a result, the official title of the organisation is now the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists (instead of the more cumbersome Guild of Agricultural Journalists of Great Britain) and there is no longer a requirement for a minimum proportion of journalist members.

The Guild's committment to the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists and the new European Network of Agricultural Journalists is emphasised in the rules; there is a formal two-year term for the Chairman and Deputy Chairman; and management Council meetings may now be conducted through video- or teleconferencing if required.

A document detailing these rule changes was linked to the AGM eAlert sent out in February.

A detailed report on the Guild in 2011 is available here.

The Honorary Treasurer's report in available here.

A summary of the audited accounts can be studied here.

In his address, Adrian commented on the growing opportunities that membership of the Guild offers and the challenges presented by hosting the IFAJ Congress in 2014:

"Since the Council report covers the nuts and bolts of what’s been going on with the Guild during the past 12 months, I would like to highlight some of the more important achievements and activities.

I’d like to make particular mention of the members of Council. This was the first year of the new, smaller Council of 11 members, down from a previous total of 17. If the number has decreased, then the enthusiasm and ambition has increased in inverse proportion.

Adrian BellInevitably, that has meant more work for the remaining members who, it must be emphasised, give freely of their time in order to sit on Council and run what is rapidly becoming – if our membership figures are anything to go by – an organisation to which people aspire to belong. That nine out of those eleven members are self-employed or run their own small businesses is even more remarkable, for time really is at a premium when it’s your own. I’m sure all our members will join me in thanking Council for the marvellous job they do in keeping the Guild running and driving it forward.

Improving and developing the Guild is the reason why we’re voting today on some changes to the Guild’s rules, aims and objectives. Like any organisation, the Guild has to adapt to changes, both those that come from within and those that affect it externally. The most significant is the rule change that eliminates the  limit on the proportion of non-journalist members; but this is simply a sign of the times.

Equally significant, and again hugely relevant to today’s world, is the proposed additional objective of the Guild that members should contribute towards a better understanding of agriculture within the world in which we live. And on a more practical level, we’re looking at ways to reduce the Guild’s running costs by recognising more modern ways of communication, such as holding Council meetings by teleconference.

Speaking of finance, our Honorary Treasurer, Tim Price, continues to do good work for the Guild by presiding over a healthy set of accounts. His attention to detail is reassuring and I’m delighted that he’s volunteered yet more of his time to assist with the financial planning for the IFAJ Congress in 2014, which the British Guild is proud to be hosting.

Working to the theme Innovation from a Small Island, the Congress will welcome up to 250 delegates from more than 30 countries to explore and understand the massive contribution that Britain has made to agricultural development and production, from the start of the agricultural revolution through to the present day.

I can’t emphasise enough just how important this is for the Guild and the amount of work that we will all need to invest in this project over the next 30 months. It is not something to be taken lightly, nor something which we can afford to do anything less than 100%.

Please, if you would like to support the Congress with ideas, time, funds or in any other way, let us know.

Your continued support is also needed for the Guild’s Charitable Trust, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary with the remarkable achievement of reaching a capital sum of £100,000. This is even more remarkable given the recent upset in the money markets and financial world; our thanks for this can be laid squarely at the feet of the trustees and the meticulous care of the Trust’s finances given by its treasurer, Diane Montague.

John Allan + Adrian BellLater today, we will have the draw for the 200 Club, the means by which all members can make a regular annual contribution to the Charitable Trust. Ably administered for many years by Guild member John Allan (pictured right), today’s is John's last draw – he is standing down from running the Club.

I’m sure you’ll all join me in thanking John for his dedication to the Trust over the years and for his involvement in the Trust reaching its funding objective.

Besides the AGM, the 200 Club draw also makes an appearance at the Harvest Lunch – and what an occasion that was last year. New sponsors, with particular mention of Lloyds TSB, Waitrose and Partners in Purchasing; a new venue at the magnificent Stationers’ Hall; and the presence of HRH The Princess Royal, saw a record attendance and portrayed the Guild in a new light.

Amongst the many positive comments I received in the days after the event, one stuck in my mind: “With this year’s Harvest Lunch, the Guild has moved up to another level”. We can’t promise Royalty again this year, but I can confirm the date for you – October 11th. Put it in your diaries now!

The Guild is not just about events like the Harvest Lunch, although I know many members would rank it as one of our highlights. We have a professional raison d’etre and that has also been progressed this year.

Through the efforts of our president, Lord Cameron, we met Jim Paice with the intention of rebuilding and emulating the close working relationship that I know many members remember from the days of MAFF. That will soon bear fruit, as will our efforts with overseas organisations such as the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) and the newly-formed European Network of Agricultural Journalists (ENAJ).

We’re also investigating the opportunity – and benefits or otherwise – of being able to secure a Royal Charter for the Guild in order to mark our 70th anniversary in 2014. I hope to report favourably on all these developments in 12 months’ time.

Paul LayWe have acknowledged and thanked all our sponsors in the annual report, but I must mention again one in particular: AGCO has been a long-term supporter of the Guild and special thanks must go to member Paul Lay (left) and his team for sponsoring today’s event – not only the venue here, but also the meal that many of you will be enjoying tonight.

Finally, allow me to recognise the efforts of two further people. Jane Craigie, deputy chairman, who provides me with a great deal of support and counsel; and our general secretary Clemmie Gleeson, who manages to juggle several balls at once without dropping any of them - and for whom nothing ever seems too much trouble. 

For my part, I look forward to continuing to steer the Guild through these exciting times for the next 12 months.

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