DEFRA secretary wants farmers and the government to forge closer links

DEFRA secretary David Miliband has called for a new partnership between farmers and the government to shape the future of UK agriculture.

Mr Miliband made the call in an upbeat speech at the Royal Show on Monday 3 July which was welcomed by farmers as ‘much more positive in tone’ than speeches delivered by his predecessor Margaret Beckett.

“I want to focus on how, together, we can help farming regain its rightful place as a British success story that the British public is proud to acclaim,” said Mr Miliband.

“You should be rightfully proud of your achievements and your record,” he told farmers at the industry briefing.

“I am proud to be associated with this industry. We have great challenges ahead – both environmental and economic,” he added.

Mr Miliband coined the phrase ‘one planet farming’ to describe his vision of the UK farming industry of the future.

“One planet farming should  minimise the impact on the environment of food production and consumption, and maximise its contribution to renewal of the natural environment,” he said.

“My belief is that, working together, we can achieve the twin goals of economic prosperity and one planet living.”

“Our goal should be to build a profitable, innovative and competitive industry, which helps build sustainable rural communities while making a positive net contribution to the environment and managing risks, especially of animal disease.”

Mr Miliband outlined four guiding principles for a new government and farming partnership.

* A long-term view over the next 10 or more years in which the government will provide a clear framework of funding and policy in return for clear commitments to change from the farming industry

* Investment linked to reform. A sensible financial deal shared by the government and farmers

* More streamlined regulation which is effective, transparent, proportionate and cost-effective

* System-wide change, especially in the key areas of the food chain and animal health and welfare. The farming industry should share more of the responsibility and costs of controlling animal disease in exchange for a bigger say in how the risks of disease are controlled.

Mr Miliband said he hoped his speech would be the starting point for a debate about the way forward for a shared agenda.

To continue the dialogue, he is inviting comments and questions from farmers – via the DEFRA website – and will be online from 12.15pm to 1pm on Thursday (6 July) to respond to them.

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