Government rethink urged by NFU at Farming Futures launch

The National Farmers' Union president has urged the government to have a radical rethink of its attitude to production agriculture.

The National Farmers' Union president has urged the government to have a radical rethink of its attitude to production agriculture when he addressed the launch of Defra's vision for the future of agriculture with secretary of State Hilary Benn yesterday

Set against a back drop of animal diseases visited upon the industry, the summer's flooding, decreasing world commodity stocks and a rapid rise in commodity prices, Peter Kendall reminded key industry stakeholders of the twin challenges of maintaining a profitable agricultural supply while shrinking its environmental footprint.

Speaking after the launch he said: "Agriculture is uniquely placed to provide solutions to the great issues of the food, energy and environmental security.

"Achieving this vision will provide us with many challenges - to society, the Government and of course for the farming community itself.  For government, the main challenge is to dramatically change its attitude to farming, and its own culture."

"I will know that we have succeeded when I switch on the radio in the morning and hear government spokesmen talk about the importance of agriculture in the same way they talk about the importance of the City of London and the knowledge society to our economy."

"There is urgent need for change on regulation, research and government priorities.

He added: "On the regulation front, although we welcome commitment to reduce current regulatory burdens by 25% I am afraid I have to remain sceptical as to the real impact on the farming community as long as Defra's approach to introducing new regulation does not change.

"On research and development, if the agricultural sector is required to simultaneously increase production while reducing its environmental footprint, it is evident we need to use smart technology and have an adequate framework of government support. Disappointingly we are seeing cuts to the applied research budget despite acknowledgement of the joint challenges of globalisation and climate change.

"However, perhaps the biggest challenge for government is to base its overall priorities on the challenges of the future and not the concerns of the past. There is a lack of coherent thinking at government level about how policy changes might impact the competitiveness of our industry - the elimination of the Agricultural Buildings' Allowance, for example, at a time when investments are required to comply with a full array of environmental regulations is a painful example of this failure."

He continued: "But I would not like to think that the future of agriculture is only the responsibility of government. We see the market as key in ensuring a profitable agricultural sector, and consumers and others in the supply chain need to play a key role in ensuring that the high standards and values of British produce are properly rewarded.

"Farmers have a crucial role to play in ensuring the delivery of this vision. As any other group in society farmers will be judged by the result of their actions and treated accordingly and cannot afford the repeat the mistakes of the past. With so much at stake we cannot afford not to rise to the challenge."

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