Agriculture could thrive in 2009 despite the gloomy predictions of deepening recession, volatile food markets and changing climate, says NFU president Peter Kendall.

But he told delegates to the British Cattle Breeders Conference in Telford, Shropshire, that the dairy industry first had to overcome significant short-term pressures.

Mr Kendall said: “The dairy industry has all the right ingredients for a very positive future: Growing demand for dairy products, increasing consumer demand and willingness to pay for high-quality British food, and the capacity to grow and take advantages of new market opportunities.

“However, in the short term dairy farmers are buckling under the pressure of unstable milk prices, high input costs, the need for reinvestment on farm, low calf prices, labour shortages, increased costs of borrowing and a worsening TB situation,” he said.

Mr Kendall called on the government to reduce the burden of inspection on dairy farms and highlighted the potential to cut hygiene inspections by recognising Farm Assurance as an indicator of low risk.