NFU president Ben Gill presided over what turned out to be a wit-filled annual conference for his union in Warwick this week.
Secretary of state Margaret Beckett amused the assembled throng with repartee on the subject of import control, after being presented with a box of unidentifiable meat. It had been bought by a delegate at a pet shop in West Sussex. Gill advised Beckett not to open it as "it has rather a nasty pong". Beckett told the delegate: "Thank you for your disgusting exhibit' as you call it. Fortunately I have a man who carries these things for me."
European agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler, jet-lagged from the WTO talks in Tokyo, drew praise from Gill for his linguistic aptitude. "When I first met him he hardly spoke a word of English," Gill recalled.
Fischler retorted by asking if the decision to hold the conference outside London was "a contribution to international development from the NFU".