The government must pay greater attention to boosting food production, as it is the linchpin of a thriving rural sector, according to NFU deputy president Minette Batters.

Speaking at the Devon County Show last week, Ms Batters said that successive governments had paid lip service to farmers, but had failed to fulfil their promises. “Food production is not a priority for this government – the language has changed since Margaret Beckett, but the actions haven’t.”

Prioritising food production would affect every part of the rural economy, as politicians would have to tackle TB, support land-based education, reduce red tape, and curb the power of single-issue pressure groups, said Ms Batters. “Eradicating TB is part of food production – we have a strategy in place, and if we don’t do it now, it will never happen.”

The rise in influence of non-governmental organisations, which politicians mistakenly called “society”, posed a considerable threat to food production, she added. “These are not ‘society’ – they are pressure groups, some of which don’t want to see farming at all.”

Ms Batters was also very worried about retailers’ failure to wholly back British produce, just one year on from the Horsegate scandal. “We need to look after our own supply chains – and, personally, I would like to know what happened to those prosecutions,” she said.

Mirroring farmers’ concerns about depressed beef prices, MP Neil Parish said he had already contacted the Groceries Adjudicator. “It looks like there’s a monopoly of ownership by Irish beef companies and I’ve asked the adjudicator to look into that.”