Key issues for farming in 2008

Farmers Weekly asked five key players in the rural and farming industries for their views on what the major issues will be in 2008. Today we ask Tony Cooper


The agency’s first priority is to deliver its target of making 75% of full Single Payment Scheme payments, by value, before the end of March and 90% by the end of May. We have committed to delivering more payments to more farmers earlier than in previous years and, with payments having been initiated a month earlier than for the last Scheme year, we are currently on track to do this.

During 2008 I will continue to focus on our delivery. Building on the steady progress made in 2007, the emphasis will be on improving our service to customers, delivering clear and accurate information and improving our response times to queries.

Third, RPA has a wide range of responsibilities, including the Cattle Tracing System, farm inspections and numerous other important payment schemes. In 2008 my priority is to see RPA supporting the industry, ensuring that any policy changes or developments such as new regulations in October requiring us to make all payments by BACS and not cheque, are introduced sensitively and effectively.


The three key issues for 2008 are profitability, profitability and profitability.

“The overarching priority must be to improve margins so that farmers can cope with things like animal diseases and cost sharing.

“It is frightening that after a terrible year so many farmers are telling me that they intend to reduce livestock numbers. It is vital that the FUW continues to endeavour to convince politicians and our customers that the supply chain is in danger of meltdown.

“Government has to act to pressure supermarkets to pay suppliers fair prices, and I fully support the Welsh rural affairs minister’s call for a retail ombudsman.

“Something also has to be done about bureaucracy, which is getting worse rather than better. Too often EU regulations are being applied domestically in ways that drain profits and demoralise farmers.

“The message is simple give us fair profits and we can cope with almost anything that is thrown at us.”

  • Anthony Gibson, Director of communications, NFU


To achieve a decisive improvement in prices to the livestock sector, so as to rebuild confidence among livestock farmers that sustainable profitability will eventually be achieved.

To remove the worst regulatory excesses threatened by the government’s Nitrates Vulnerable Zones proposals and the EU’s plans for a Soils Directive.

To ensure that the government not only understands the importance to the nation of a productive farming sector, but reflects that importance in championing the industry, rather than regulating it into the ground.


We know 2007 has been a tough year for many but a rise in commodity prices and confirmation of an almost £3bn budget for agri-environment schemes over the next seven years show promise for next year.

Natural England will continue to work with the farming industry to face up to the environmental challenges of the future.

It is vital that the wider role farmers have to play in delivering environmental benefits and their role in combating climate change is recognised by the wider public and appropriately rewarded. We will be giving people around the country the opportunity to find out more about the great things farmers are delivering through Environmental Stewardship schemes and how much they value this work.

Natural England will also continue to work with government and the farming industry towards a reformed CAP, in which subsidies are phased out and payments for positive environmental management are increased to meet the environmental challenges of the 21 century.

Jim McLaren

The overwhelming objective is to get every sector of the industry on a sustainable footing. From that, three clear priorities emerge changing mindsets among supermarkets, preparing for bluetongue‘s re-emergence and dealing with the foot-and-mouth aftermath.

The same farmgate price rises that have been seen in the milk and cereals sectors need to be mirrored across the whole industry if local production is to be secured.

Global pressure on food supplies is increasing so switching to imports may not be an option open to UK supermarkets in the long-term.

Springtime is usually keenly anticipated by farmers, however for the Scottish sheep industry, bluetongue threatens. DEFRA, with industry and others, needs to lead the preparation of a co-ordinated vaccination battle plan if we are to have the ammunition we need against the disease.

Bluetongue will focus the minds but the aftermath of F&M is inescapable. UK government owes the industry for the catastrophe caused by the negligence at Pirbright. Justice must be served.

What are your views on the key issues for 2008?

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