DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson will address the Oxford Farming Conference on its opening day – his first major speech on agriculture since taking up the post in September 2012.

Mr Paterson will kick off a political session on Thursday morning (3 Jan) which is expected to cover CAP reform and the outlook for UK farmers over the coming months.

It follows calls from NFU president Peter Kendall for fresh thinking on farm policy from government to allow British agriculture to recover from a £1.3bn “black hole” following the horrendous weather of 2012.

The theme for this year’s two-day conference is Confident Farmers- Delivering for Society.

As part of this, OFC organisers have commissioned research to quantify the hidden contribution UK farming makes to society, beyond food production and GDP.

“To date these hidden values have never been accurately quantified,” said OFC chairman Mike Gooding.

“We commissioned this work to move the debate forward to bring confidence to the industry about just how much it delivers through activities like flood defences, public access to green spaces and clean water, and to better understand what society gets from their connection with farming and the countryside.”

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