NFU leaders have urged growers to help outline a new strategy for arable farming, arguing that the combinable crops sector must be reinvented if it is to survive.

Speaking at the Cereals Event on Wednesday (14 June), NFU president Peter Kendall said farmers must work together to develop a long-term vision that will prepare the sector for the expected phasing out of arable support within the next 15 years.

Union analysts increasingly believe Brussels will withdraw intervention for combinable crops by 2020, further exposing the sector to the vagaries of the world market and making it vital that arable farmers find new ways to thrive.

Mr Kendall used the arable event to launch a wide-ranging consultation he said would be used to prepare a Combinable Crops Vision for the sector.

It would reflect what growers wanted to achieve and what they were willing to deliver.

The consultation will examine ways farmers can exploit new opportunities by producing crops for energy and renewable materials as well as food, while managing the rural landscape and safeguarding its diverse habitats.

Mr Kendall said:

“Technological innovations in the industry tell me the arable sector can and will play a significant part in both fuelling people with food and also with providing our apparently insatiable thirst for energy.”

NFU combinable crops chairman Arthur Hill said the strategy would put growers on the front foot when it came to policy decisions.

It would also provide an agenda for the government to work towards, ensuring a sustainable farming future.

As well as farmers, those invited to respond will include traders, suppliers, retailers, DEFRA, the Home-Grown Cereals Authority, conservation bodies, energy companies and academics.

Mr Hill said:

“For the first time in a long while we have the opportunity to come up with a vision for the future of agriculture.

It is important that we get it right and that is why we are making it industry wide and open to anyone.”

Due to be published at the NFU conference next February, the final strategy would be a valuable lead from the NFU to those working with farmers.

fwnews@rbi.co.uk