NFU president Tim Bennett has launched a fierce defence of the union’s record, insisting that the organisation is successful and credible.

“I take great offence at claims the NFU is not doing its job,” said Mr Bennett.

“It has had many recent successes.

To name but a few, these include: playing a major role in persuading the government to sign up to the Renewable Energy Transport Obligation, overseeing 5bn of produce into the well-known red tractor scheme and ensuring confidence in the poultry market was maintained during the recent avian influenza scare.”

Farmers now have to operate in a modern business environment where they can no longer produce whatever they want and see a government cheque at the end of the month, Mr Bennett added.

“Most importantly, no one should believe that the real difficulties farmers face today could easily be reversed by simply shouting louder.”

Mr Bennett claimed it was wrong to suggest the NFU was against the introduction of a tougher, statutory Supermarket Code of Practice.

The difficulty with the Code was that it only applied to the big four retailers, he said.

The union was promoting a Buyers Charter as an addition, because guidelines were needed that applied to processors as well as retailers.

Mr Bennett said he was also disappointed by the suggestion that the union had done little to get locally-produced food in schools and hospitals.

“We’ve worked like mad to get the public procurement specification rules changed for schools and hospitals so they can source local food.”

For more about the NFU see www.nfu.org.uk