Donald Curry

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Sir Donald Curry KB, CBE, FRAgS

  • Donald Thomas Younger Curry is married with three children.
  • He chaired the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food which reported to Government in January 2002. .
  • He is Chairman of the NFU Mutual Insurance Company having been appointed a non-executive director in 1998, Deputy Chairman in June 2000 and Chairman in June 2003. NFU Mutual employs around 3,500 staff, and is the 10th largest insurer in the UK with £11bn of funds under investment
  • In January 2000 he was appointed as a Crown Estate Commissioner and was re-appointed in 2004 for a further term. The board of the Crown Estate; that Board manages capital investments of almost £6bn on behalf of the monarch.
  • He was first appointed an MLC Commissioner in October 1986 and Chaired the Commission from September 1993 until April 2001.
  • He was awarded a CBE for his services to Agriculture in the 1997 New Year’s Honours list and a Knighthood in the Birthday Honours in 2001.
  • In December 2000 he was the first recipient of The Royal Smithfield Club's Bicentenary Trophy awarded for his major contribution to the British meat industry.
  • In 2007 he was awarded a fellowship of the SAC.
  • He farms 250 acres in Northumberland comprising arable and lowland grass. He is one of the largest producers of cattle in the North of England.
  • In the early nineties he established North Country Primestock – a co-operative which integrated supply chain relationships between producers, processes and retailers. Today it involves some 800 farmers, with a turnover of around £20m.

Sir Donald Curry has been an integral part of the British farming establishment for years, with a long history with the Meat and Livestock Commission,(MLC). The MLC’s ‘paramount duty is to promote greater efficiency in the livestock industry and the livestock products industry’. [1] Following its line of duty, the MLC was critised during the BSE crisis for isuing statements which were "not scientifically correct" and for falling "short of the objectivity that should have been shown by a statutory body with a duty to have regard to the interests of the consumer". [2]

There are two other links of interest with Curry and the MLC. There has also been a close relationship between the MLC and Food from Britain, another quasi-governmental agency whose primary aim is to export as much food as possible from the UK. It is an organisation that would later benefit from the Curry Commission. Curry’s predecessor as chairman of the MLC, Geoffrey John, moved to become chairman of Food from Britain in 1994. Curry was appointed to the Council of Food from Britain for three years in 1994, staying for at least six years. Here was a man who believed in the neo-liberal model of low cost competing internationally.

From the late nineties, Curry had been appointed as a director of NFU Mutual, the powerful insurance company that links into the NFU. He is now the non-executive Chairman of the NFU Mutual Insurance Company. The link between NFU Mutual and the National Farmers Union (NFU) runs more deeply than many people think, with the two organisations closely intertwined. They even run joint companies together.

The Curry Commission

So Curry was not just a government-insider, he was an NFU insider, but he would lead an ‘independent’ commission. In August 2001, the ‘Policy Commission On The Future Of Farming And Food’ was announced, headed by Curry. It became known as the Curry Commission. It was meant to be the biggest revamp of agricultural policy since the War. The committee’s remit was, in part, to ‘advise the Government on how we can create a sustainable, competitive and diverse farming and food sector.’

The Commission identified that the ‘key objective of public policy should be to reconnect our food and farming industry; to reconnect farming with its market and the rest of the food chain; to reconnect the food chain and the countryside; and to reconnect consumers with what they eat and how it is produced.’

When the report was published in January 2002 it conatined over 100 recommendations the central theme of the report reflected the objectives of the Commission: reconnection. Reconnecting farmers with their market and the rest of the food chain; Reconnecting the food chain with a healthy and attractive countryside; Reconnecting consumers with what they eat and where it has come from. [3]

It was welcomed by many in the local food movement that finally thought here was a reportthat talked about many of the issues local food groups had long espoused. It also raised the idea of an alternative to the big food and supermarket system. ‘The immediate aftermath of FMD and Curry report did raise the awareness of local food as being a significant alternative strategy for the whole food system in the UK,’ argues Charles Couzens, a leading local food expert.

The job of implementing Curry’s recommendations – called the Implementation Group was also given to an organisation that was headed by Curry. ‘I am very glad that Don Curry himself agreed to chair this group of distinguished outsiders,’ wrote Tony Blair. Also in response, in the 2002 Spending Review, the government promised ‘investment totalling over £500 million over three years will be available to support the key recommendations of the Policy Commission chaired by Sir Don Curry, and to improve animal health and welfare.’[4] Since then millions has been poured into British agriculture. But why nearly four years later is Curry still talking about the need for reconnection? And what about a fair return for farmers, a central theme of the Curry Commission.

The Curry Commission has led to the establishment of a whole range of new rural initiatives in England, such as the Farming and Food Partnership, the Food Chain Centre, the Applied R & D Forum and the Non Food Crop Centre. The most recent initiative is the Year of Food and Farming which will be launched in September 2007 – the aim being that every primary school child in England and Wales should learn about farming, cooking food, good nutrition and how it can contribute to a healthier lifestyle. [5]


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  2. ^Phillips, Lord, Bridgeman, J and Ferguson-Smith, Professor M (2000) The BSE Inquiry Report. Evidence and Supporting Papers of the Inquiry into the Emergence and Identification of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) and the Action Taken in Response to it up to 20 March 1996, The Stationery Office, London, October, Vol. One P159; Vol. 6, p 647.
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