NFU president Peter Kendall has rounded off the NFU Centenary Conference with a swipe at “freeloaders” and a call for members to encourage their farming friends and neighbours to join up.

Mr Kendall said it was hugely frustrating that so many farmers felt they could freeload on the NFU, benefiting from the organisation’s numerous achievements without paying for any of it.

In the past year the NFU had made progress in getting a regulator for retailers, had watered down the pesticides Directive and kicked into touch the soils Directive, as well as continuing with its Why Farming Matters campaign.

Mr Kendall ran through a list of ten reasons why farmers should be members of the NFU, including its lobbying, its information role and its legal support.

But its greatest strength was its unity – the fact that it represented all sectors and all farmers meant that it was listened to by government. This was why the NFU had managed to get the leaders of all three political parties to speak to its annual conference.

It was greatly encouraging that they had all mentioned food security as a priority concern – especially since it had hardly been on the agenda before the conference.

“However, I am frustrated that there appears to be a blockage in DEFRA when it comes to food security,” said Mr Kendall.

Meeting the challenge of boosting global food supplies and tackling climate change would mean making full use of the latest science and in this regard, it was crucial to win the confidence of consumers.

But Mr Kendall believed there was a window of opportunity presented by climate change to explain that science was part of the solution.

Tightening world markets were already putting pressure on food prices. But Mr Kendall said it was very dangerous to expect prices to continue climbing as some had suggested.

There would be times when markets went into surplus again and prices fell. It was therefore crucial for the industry to protect itself by forging long term partnerships with processors and retailers.