NFU chief talks of optimism for the future of British farming

NFU President Peter Kendall has issued his New Year message saying that despite the short-term hurdles that lie ahead he remains optimistic for the future of British farming.

“As I look forward to 2012, of all the statistics I have seen on the performance of British farming in this past year, none has impressed me more than the figure for the exports of food and drink: a staggering £5.85billion in just the first six months of 2011.

“That was up 13 per cent on the same period in 2010 and it leaves us on course to achieve a record level of exports for the full year. It also means that 2011 will be the seventh year in succession in which 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.

“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. And it’s not just exports. The value of farm output has increased by almost 30 per cent in the past five years. We’ve even been creating more jobs too. The latest Defra June Survey figures show a three per cent increase in England’s agricultural workforce between 2010 and 2011 – that’s 9,500 more people working on farms across the country.

“And there is huge potential to build on these achievements. Farmers and growers are more than ready to rise to the challenge of producing more food, more sustainably.

“But for that potential to be realised we need the right political, regulatory and market frameworks. So, my New Year messages are these.

“To the Government, we need 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.

“To the retailers I say stop these opportunistic practices that are driving the profits from the supply chain. Instead develop more long-term relationships built on fair play and trust; ones that allow us to invest in our farming businesses and continue to produce food sustainably in the future.

“To our customers, the British public, continue to trust British farmers to produce the goods, whether that’s affordable, top quality food; clean, green energy; or a countryside that’s the envy of the world.

“And finally to NFU members I want to say a huge thank you for your continuing support. We will use that support to fight as hard as we know how for the conditions that will enable your businesses to thrive. This is certainly what I need on my farm at home.

“I believe 2012 will be a challenging year. The uncertainties surrounding the Euro-zone crisis, and the impact on the exchange rate, make predictions almost impossible.

“However I want to see a government that thinks farming in the same way that it thinks banking.

“We need to see some visible results from the Macdonald review of farming red tape that will keep us on course to deliver on our potential. And we will look to Government to stick to its resolve as the difficult process of clearing TB from the countryside gets underway.

“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.”