Landowners have praised a speech in which DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn described food security as a priority.

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, Mr Benn said farmers should produce more food, subject to environmental considerations.

“I want British agriculture to produce as much food as possible no ifs, no buts,” he told delegates.

“The only requirements should be, first, that consumers want what is produced and, second, that the way our food is grown both sustains our environment and safeguards our landscape.”

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said there was a notable change in Mr Benn’s tone.

Mr Benn also rejected electronic sheep identification (EID) as a bad idea and said he would continue to challenge the EU over proposed pesticide restrictions.

CLA president Henry Aubrey-Fletcher said the keynote address showed food security was now high up on DEFRA’s agenda.

“DEFRA has recognised and made u-turns on many issues we have been campaigning on for some time,” he said.

“We highlighted the inefficiency and huge potential cost of sheep EID and DEFRA has finally realised that it would be unlikely to achieve its objectives.”

Do you think Hilary Benn’s attitutde towards farming has changed? Have your say on the FWi forums