Despite the challenges ahead, British farming faces a bright future – that was the message delivered by NFU president Peter Kendall in his New Year message.
On the year ahead, he said: “I believe 2012 will be a challenging year. The uncertainties surrounding the Euro-zone crisis, and the impact on the exchange rate, make predictions almost impossible.
“However I want to see a government that thinks farming in the same way that it thinks banking. We need to see some visible results from the Macdonald review of farming red tape that will keep us on course to deliver on our potential. And we will look to Government to stick to its resolve as the difficult process of clearing TB from the countryside gets underway.
“For the longer-term, I remain incredibly optimistic for the future of farming. The prospects for our sector will be linked to the need for farming to produce more food and more sustainably, and that need has never been greater, nor offered more potential, to the nation as a whole.”
He called on George Osborne and Vince Cable to look to agriculture as an industry able to “kick-start growth and re-balance the economy”, citing Defra June Survey figures which reveal a 3% increase, 9,500 people, in the agricultural workforce in England between 2010 and 2011.
“There is huge potential to build on these achievements. Farmers and growers are more than ready to rise to the challenge of producing more food, more sustainably.
But for that potential to be realised we need the right political, regulatory and market frameworks,” added Mr Kendall.
He called on the government to shape a new Common Agricultural Policy which “encourages, rather than penalises, efficient farming” thus allowing the industry to grow and produce food, while protecting the environment.
Addressing the retailers, he said: “Stop these opportunistic practices that are driving the profits from the supply chain. Instead develop more long-term relationships built on fair play and trust; ones that allow us to invest in our farming businesses and continue to produce food sustainably in the future.”
And to the British public, he called on consumers to continue trusting British farmers to produce affordable, top quality food, clean, green energy, and a countryside that’s the “envy of the world”.
Speaking directly to NFU members, he said: “I want to say a huge thank you for your continuing support. We will use that support to fight as hard as we know how for the conditions that will enable your businesses to thrive. This is certainly what I need on my farm at home.”