Farmers call for government backing

NFU President, Peter Kendall, has called on government to give explicit recognition to the key role that farming will have to play over the years ahead in securing Britain's food supply and fighting climate change.

Speaking at a reception held at the Oxford Farming Conference to mark the start of the NFU's centenary year, Mr Kendall said that the situation in which farmers and growers were operating had changed dramatically.

"Rising world demand, climate change and energy security have combined to make agriculture a strategically important industry once again; a sector that offers society solutions, not problems, and to hear our politicians acknowledge that would be a great start to our centenary year," he said.

But Kendall told delegates that not everyone appeared to have understood the nature or importance of the change, which led him to suggest two New Year's resolutions:

"The first is that the livestock chain wakes up and responds in the same way that - at last- the dairy chain has. It is high time that the whole of the livestock chain recognised the fragility of local supply and started entering into long term contracts and, above all, started paying remunerative prices. Let 2008 be the year that the economic upturn now enjoyed by some, spreads to all.

"The second is that Defra and the government too acknowledge that things have changed. This is emphatically not a plea for government assistance or subsidy; just a government statement that farming matters - to coin a phrase- would be a good start.

"Beyond that, we need to see some understanding that if we are going to be expected to produce more and improve our environmental performance at the same time- and we should be expected to do that- it will require technology and investment, and a more coherent government policy.

"Ending the Agricultural Building Allowance- to take just one topical example- simply makes no sense in this context."

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