NFU head optimistic about future of farming

The president of the National Farmers Union (NFU) has said that he remains “optimistic” about the future of British farming, despite the challenges that lie ahead in 2012.

Issuing his new year message, Peter Kendall pointed out that food and drink exports reached £5.85bn in the first six months of 2011, up 13% on the same period in 2010 and the seventh successive year that food and drink exports have risen.

“The exchange rate has undoubtedly been part of the picture over the longer term, but this year’s performance has outstripped expectations and shows that we can compete internationally,” he said.

Kendall added that the value of farm output had increased by almost 30% in the past five years, and the latest Defra June Survey figures showed a 3% increase in England’s agricultural workforce between 2010 and 2011.

“If George Osborne and Vince Cable are looking for industrial sectors to kick-start growth and re-balance the economy, then they should start by looking at farming… Farmers and growers are more than ready to rise to the challenge of producing more food, more sustainably,” he said.

However, Kendall said that for the potential to be realised, farmers needed the right political, regulatory and market frameworks and called on the government to drive through a reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, “which encourages, rather than penalises, efficient farming and which frees the industry to grow, to look after the environment and to produce the food we need”.

He also called on retailers to stop “opportunistic” practices which reduce profits in the supply chain and to focus instead on developing long-term relationships that allow farmers to invest in their businesses.

He concluded: “For the longer-term, I remain incredibly optimistic for the future of farming. The prospects for our sector will be linked to the need for farming to produce more food and more sustainably, and that need has never been greater, nor offered more potential, to the nation as a whole.
“I wish everyone a prosperous and successful year’s farming in 2012.”