Watch video of Peter Kendall speaking at Grassland and Muck

Farmers need to continue to be positive about their futures but will need to ensure they use new technologies to improve efficiency to realise sustainable profits.

That was the key message from NFU president Peter Kendall on the opening day of Grassland and Muck 2008.

While prices had risen considerably, Mr Kendall said it was important for the public to be given clear messages about the true profitability of the industry.

“We have to get the balance right, particularly in communicating to the public what the cost implications of price rises are. But, overall, our outward messages have to be positive. The challenge is to give a clear message to the consumer of optimism, whilst highlighting the impact of rising input costs.

Technology and research

“The timing of this event is crucial in terms of how the industry can implement technology and research to make the food production more sustainable.”

Highlighting the importance of retaining what little profit came from strengthening prices, Mr Kendall spoke of the necessity to apply increasingly expensive inputs efficiently and use natural resources to their full potential.

He also called for fairer prices, drawing attention to the fact that despite recent milk price rises, 48 dairy producers were leaving the industry each month. “UK milk production is still way below quota, unlike the rest of the EU, who are responding by increasing production.”

“The last year has been a period of unbelievable low for livestock farmers, and low prices are still impacting on incomes.

“The government needs to find ways of encouraging producers and not inhibit farmers’ desire to increase food production by over-legislation, such as the impending NVZ regulations.

Livestock production

He also attacked unreasonable environmental criticism of UK livestock production. “The comments levelled at the industry that cows are contributing more to climate change than aeroplanes are absurd. But they make an event like Grassland even more important in terms of the ways research and technological developments can be implemented.”

Mr Kendall ended his speech by emphasising the need for the industry to work together to become more efficient, more profitable and able to meet the increased challenges on food production.

“We have to encourage collaboration between all those in the industry in order to help farmers increase production.”