27 November 2001
Crop Conf: Profitability first, says Gill

By Tom Allen-Stevens

FARM leader Ben Gill has told delegates at the Crops Conference near Cambridge that nothing in agriculture can be sustainable unless it is profitable.

“The basis of sustainability is profitability – it underpins everything we do,” said Mr Gill who also chaired the conference on Tuesday (27 November).

He was responding to the aims and objectives of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which were released last week.

The Department states it wishes to encourage a sustainable agriculture which protects or enhances the environment, but makes no mention of profitability.

“The environment is important, but you cannot have a sustainable environment unless you have the funds to do it,” said Mr Gill.

He also poured scorn on Defra for allowing the strike at the Rural Payments Agency to hold up subsidy cheques.

“We are piggies in the middle. This is not acceptable and we must send a clear message that they must put this right.”

He has written to the minister demanding that interest is paid on all late payments.

And he demanded that farmers should be given recognition for the unpaid services they provide to consumers, especially a secure and cheap food supply.

“Although agriculture makes up just one per cent of the Gross Domestic Product, it underpins the food chain that is the biggest single part of the economy.

“Over the years consumers have saved 24.6 billion on food – thats almost equivalent to Common Agricultural Policy spending on farming.”

Mr Gill also gave his support to a Petition for Profitability launched by Crops editor Debbie Beaton. Click here for more details.

The petition asks Defra minister Margaret Beckett to recognise that farm businesses need to be profitable to be sustainable.

“Its crucial we bang the drum and make sure Defra acknowledges how important profitability is,” she told delegates.

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