Farmers call for government support in 2015
Published:  02 January, 2015

Farming leaders are calling on government support to back their industry and help reverse a decline in self-sufficiency.

Speaking at his first New Year message as National Farmers’ Union president, Meurig Raymond said the government needed to embrace the positive mood among farmers for the long-term future.

He said: “I am optimistic for the future of our industry, like many farmers, but we need early government action – action which shares this optimism and work with the industry to plan for sustained growth over the course of the next Parliament. At very least the government should aim to reverse declining UK self-sufficiency.

“This needs to be part of a longer-term vision. I want to see a government with policies that enable UK farmers to feed this growing population. Encouragement to invest in capital infrastructure to modernise farm buildings and reduce our energy use is needed. I want to see a government that commits to targets for buying more food locally from UK assured farms too. And I want to see policies based on robust scientific evidence, rather than driven by populist campaigning, as I fear is driving the regulation of agricultural pesticides.

“It is absolutely clear that we are living in volatile times. Farmers have seen their crop values, milk and beef reduced by up to 34%. We’ve seen rain lashing down, bringing with it horrendous flooding which devastated thousands of acres of land, showing the grave vulnerability of rural areas and farmland.”

He said that commodity price volatility was a major concern, particularly for the dairy sector, but other issues were also threatening livestock producers.

“For many livestock farmers it is the short term that is most troubling. Bovine tuberculosis is endemic across much of western England and Wales. This is why cattle movement controls have been tightened as part of Defra’s 25-year TB Eradication Strategy which must involve control of TB in wildlife, especially badgers. That is why the NFU expects the next government to roll out the next stage of wildlife control in high-risk areas.”

However, it is not all down to the government to support farmers, he added: ““Let’s not forget that we – the NFU, its members and the wider industry – must also do all we can to promote ourselves. We need to take advantage of the fact that more and more members of the public are thinking positive things about farming.

“And there’s much to be positive about. Farming has come out of the shadows in the past decade as increasing concern about food security highlights a forward-looking sector offering solutions to society and the economy.

"In the last five years to 2013, UK farmers grew gross output by 31% to £25.7bn, our businesses employ 464,000 across the UK and we supply 60% of the nation’s food. Farming is the bedrock of the food industry, the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, and central to the rural economy and environment. So, good reason for the next government to ‘Back British Farming’.”