NFU president Peter Kendall accompanied new DEFRA secretary David Miliband on a visit to a farm in Hampshire on Wednesday – Mr Miliband’s first official visit after his appointment as DEFRA secretary last Friday (5 May).
Keen to seize the opportunity, Mr Kendall emphasised the important role agriculture plays in sustaining rural communities, maintaining the environment, providing a safe and constant supply of food and its unique position in helping to tackle climate change.
Mr Kendall described the visit as an ideal chance to promote the benefits of farming to the minister, something he said was difficult to achieve inside an office in Whitehall.
“I see my role as NFU president as convincing Mr Miliband that farming is a strong and dynamic industry, which is vital to this country’s future, a future where the industry and government can work together, not one that involves winding the clock back to a mythical view of the past. Above all, I want him to understand why farming matters,” said Mr Kendall.
As well as urging Mr Miliband to make his first priority resolving the issue of single farm payments in England, Mr Kendall also described the devastating effect bovine tuberculosis is having on many farm businesses and the significance of the levy board review.
Following a similar line, the Country Land and Business Association and the Tenant Farmers’ Association have written to Mr Miliband outlining their concerns and views on issues affecting the industry. They, too, have urged the minister to prioritise resolving the single farm payment issue.
TFA president Reg Haydon said he was hopeful Mr Miliband’s appointment would lead to an increased government interest in agricultural matters.
“I have expressed my wish that under Mr Miliband’s leadership we will see a greater engagement from the secretary of state in matters affecting agriculture than we have experienced to date.”