Why Farming Matters

It has taken floods, food riots and collapsing financial markets to get people to acknowledge agriculture's importance in meeting some of the major challenges facing the world,†said Paul Temple in Oxford yesterday.

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, the NFU vice president said that recent events highlighted the way in which productive agriculture and the environment are inextricably linked.

He added that in the coming year, the NFU will focus its efforts on demonstrating agriculture's ability to deliver both improved production and environmental protection.

"Even now, Defra has started to wake up to food security but all too often it is still preaching the environmental agenda with an evangelical zeal," he said.

"Of course, if Defra is the preacher, then it has an enthusiastic choir behind it singing from the same hymn sheet. There are all too many single issue bodies, pressure groups and NGOs all too ready to sing the same tired old song on farming's role in biodiversity loss and crashing farmland bird numbers.

"What we believe, and what NFU campaigns for the next 18 months will focus on, is the need for a new balance between productive agriculture and the environment. Telling the public that, actually, productive agriculture and the environment are inextricably linked, indeed complementary, and no other industry but ours can deliver both."

Temple added that the Why Farming Matters campaign has the same aims today that it originally did- recognising the fundamental role played by farming in shaping the country "at every level of life."

"Reaffirming what is important about UK farming - our farming - our members' farming, is essential, because if we don't do it, who will?" he asked.

"Not our own Government department, that's for sure, and certainly not the various NGOs whose agendas often sit in direct conflict to farming's. Only we - both as farmers, and as the NFU - can positively affect the image of our industry."