FARMING IS going through “dramatic and challenging times” but the future is starting to look brighter, according to junior DEFRA minister Alun Michael.

Mr Michael said rural England had a bright future because of steps being taken by industry and government to put the future of farming and food on a more sustainable basis.

The last 12 months had been characterised by a new willingness for government, farmers and other groups to co-operate, he said. And this had worked to good effect.

“I believe we are going through dramatic and challenging times,” he said, as he opened the Royal Show at Stoneleigh Park, Warks, on Sunday (Jul 4),

“But there is so much about which we can be positive…and this stems from co-operation between people who haven‘t always worked well together in the past.”

NFU president Tim Bennett told the audience that he thought farming was on the brink of a profound change.

“Next year farmers and growers will be free of the shackles of an old policy which effectively told them what to produce, and in some cases, when,” he said.

“The message farmers now have is that they must focus on the consumer.”

Mr Bennett admitted that the fact farming was changing was a point that many people outside of farming were completely unaware of, he said.

“Perhaps we have not been as effective as we could in communicating our messages to the wider world,” he said.

But the Royal Show was an opportunity to do just that, and start a better dialogue with consumers, he added.