NFU president Peter Kendall has said that he thinks there are solid grounds for believing that 2006 marks a turning point for the farming industry.

In a New Year message, Mr Kendall said that some sectors, such as dairy, were still a long way from achieving genuine profitability.

“An immediate and vitally important challenge is to close the 4p/litre gap in milk prices that is the difference between a farmer making a loss and being able to invest for the future,” he said.

“The current situation is not sustainable, either for individual dairy farmers, or for the dairy sector as a whole. The work that we have been doing through the NFU’s invoicing campaign must bear fruit if the dairy sector is not to suffer serious long-term damage.”

However, there were three key developments that made him think that things were changing were farming.

First, there was a shortfall in world grain supplies which pointed up the fact that Britain could not longer count on being able to buy its food cheaply from around the world.

Second, he said, the Stern report on climate change which had highlighted the importance of bioenergy.

The other key development was the appointment of David Miliband as DEFRA secretary. This was because of his acknowledgement that farming is important to the country as well as the countryside.

“The NFU now has a clear, sharp focus for our political message and our campaigning work – that farming matters,” said Mr Kendall.

“Ours is modern, dynamic industry that can produce the food and fuel that Britain needs and provide the countryside and environment that it aspires to.

“In short, I strongly believe that production agriculture is more important to the country now than at any time in the last 60 years.”