Farmers welcome Benn's support

NFU President Peter Kendall said he appreciated the "clear, unequivocal acknowledgement of the value of productive farming" given by Defra Secretary of State Hilary Benn in his speech to the Oxford Farming Conference yesterday.

But he said that government needed to reflect the growing importance of farming in policies that encourage and enable the industry's productive capacity, rather than hampering it with superfluous regulation or undermining it with unhelpful changes in taxation.

"The government seems to be getting closer to joined up thinking on farming," said Kendall. "What we need now is joined up actions."

However, he said there was a danger that the Secretary of State's self-professed uncertainty about the role which British farming should play in guaranteeing the nation's food security would send mixed messages to the farming community.

"The best way of guaranteeing Britain's food security in an increasingly insecure world situation is to ensure that we have the capacity to produce more food at home.

"To suggest that the biggest cause of food insecurity is poverty is missing the point. The affordability of food will be determined by supply and demand, and if we neglect our productive capacity, we will become more dependent on imported supplies and more at risk from food price inflation.

"Producing enough food for people to eat and keeping the price of that food affordable are two sides of the same coin. Both purposes are best served by encouraging and enabling farmers and growers in Britain to make the most of their productive resources.

"I can assure Mr Benn that farmers in this country will rise to the challenges of providing the food supplies, climate change solutions and environmental quality that the country needs.

"What we now need to see is Mr Benn's welcome acknowledgement of the strategic value of farming read across to all areas of government policy, from animal disease to water.

"However, we are clearly making progress, and we look forward to making a major contribution to the continuing debate, not least in the context of further consultations on the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit report, with the aim of ensuring that Mr Benn's words about the value of productive farming are fully reflected in strategies and actions across the whole of government."

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