NFU president looks back

The president of the National Farmer's Union (NFU) Peter Kendall, has outlined the key developments in the industry during 2006 and the challenges for 2007 in his new year's message.

He said that he suspected that when the government's farm income figures were published in a few weeks time they would confirm that 2006 turned out to be a better year.

Kendall added: "Mind you, it needed to be, given the depths to which incomes have sunk in recent years. Even as it is, there are still important sectors like dairying, where prices have actually fallen in 2006, or beef and lamb, where even after a modest improvement we are still a long way from achieving genuine profitability.

"But having said all of that, there are still solid grounds for believing that 2006 has marked a turning point, both for the industry and for the NFU.

The three key developments in 2006 Kendall identifies are: the shortfall in world grain supplies, which he said had highlighted that Britain could no longer count on being able to buy its food cheaply from around the world if it allowed domestic productive capacity to run down; the Stern report on climate change, which set out the scale of the task ahead, and by implication, the vital importance of harnessing bioenergy in the cause; the appointment of David Miliband as Defra Secretary of State and his statement shortly thereafter that "farming is important to the country as well as to the countryside".

Kendall said: "The NFU now has a clear, sharp focus for our political message and our campaigning work - that farming matters. "Ours is a modern, dynamic industry that can produce the food and fuel that Britain needs and provide the countryside and environment that it aspires to."

He added that in order to do that British farming needed to make best use of smart technology and science.

"In short, I strongly believe that production agriculture is more important to the country now than at any time in the last 60 years."

Kendall said the challenges for 2007 included cutting red tape, achieving a functional food chain and "winning the argument with those who think you can achieve more by taxing and regulating farmers and growers than you can by incentivising and working with them."

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