Jane Kennedy, the new DEFRA minister for Farming and the Environment, has pledged to support farmers in making the UK a world leader in sustainable food production.

In her first public speaking appearance since taking over from DEFRA minister Jeff Rooker earlier this month (3 October), Mrs Kennedy said government would continue to push the industry to balance food production with maintaining the environment.

“Despite changes in the office, our objectives haven’t changed,” she told a food discussion group in London on Wednesday (15 October).

“Our aim is to ensure food supplies remain secure and to have a strong, thriving, environmentally sustainable food and farming industry.

“A balance must be struck to ensure growth and production is sustainable, particularly when looking to tackle climate change.”

The minister added that recent heatwaves, flooding and storms across Europe were indicators of climate change and had hindered food supply.

But environmentally-sound farming practices would ensure steady and plentiful food production in the future.

Mrs Kennedy said government needed to do more to explain to producers what it expected from them.

“The food sector has a crucial role in growing our economy, but we need to help articulate our vision about what a sustainable food system might look like,” she said.

“The sector needs to evolve and recognise the threat of climate change, but it also needs to recognise there are opportunities to be had.

“There are tensions as economic goals sometimes pull in the opposite direction to environmental aims, but we can become a leader in sustainable production.”