Sir Don Curry, the government’s farming adviser, has told farmers to stop “talking themselves out of support”.
Addressing delegates at the Clydesdale Bank seminar at the Royal Highland Show today (22 June), Sir Don said farmers were in danger of ending up with no support after 2013 if they continued with their “silly attitude”.
“We need to continue to argue for public support for public goods – we need a clear understanding of what public goods are delivered by farming.”
Sir Don said a single support package post 2013 for agriculture was needed for farming to deliver its countryside responsibilities. “There is no way farmers will recover that from the price they get for their products if we free up global trade.”
But he also indicated a brighter future for the UK’s growers based on a number of factors:
• Local and regional food markets were not growing as fast as public demand
• A public procurement market worth £2bn which had not yet been exploited
• 20% food chain cost savings had been identified by the Food Chain Centre
• Environmental image – retailers were competing to be the “best environmentalists in town”. That would require them to provide convincing messages to the consumer based on closer food chain relationships: “We’re still far too fragmented compared with our global competitors.”
• Energy – there were opportunities from the whole renewable issue
• Diversifying and adding value: “All farmers need to look at how they can spread fixed costs and not be wholly dependent on commodity prices – that means they need alternative forms of income.”
• Caring for the countryside: “We need to be clear. This is not a park-keeping argument, it’s how we manage the countryside in parallel with food and energy production, and the services we provide to tourists – we should make sure they go home with empty pockets.
Reconnecting with the public was crucial, he concluded. “We need to convince the public we care and can justify ongoing support. We should start with school children. We have an opportunity in our own hands.”
For more from the show keep en eye on our Taking Stock blog