NFU calls for better food production balance

The new NFU national crops chairman has called for a better balance between protecting the environment and food production in UK farming.

Andrew Watts, chairman of the NFU combinable crops board, said his early first-hand experiences of the CAP reform process had led to concerns that the EU Commission was “gambling with food security”.

Therefore, he added that the NFU crops board would have a role in restoring the “balance in our farming”.

“We were too production orientated in the past, we’re now too far in the other direction and I think one of the things the board should do is to help strike the balance,” said Mr Watts.

To address this perceived imbalance, access to the science and technologies, put forward by chief government scientist John Beddington among others, would be needed to “drive the crops sector forwards” and make it more productive, he added.

He said he and his colleagues, including new vice chairman Mike Hambly, from Cornwall, were “not there to tell people how to farm, but to promote the right framework”.

Mr Watts, who farms in Hertfordshire, cited the example of the sustained negotiating efforts towards the inclusion of the Red Tractor crops scheme in a wider EU assurance package, which will provide access to important renewables markets.

In addition, he said the board would focus on:

• The business environment

• Supply chain relationships

• Managing volatility

• Promoting and defending members’ business interests.

Mr Watts, who succeeded Ian Backhouse as the new NFU crops board chairman last month, was outlining his vision for the role ahead of the union’s council meeting today (Tuesday 17 April) at Stoneleigh.

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Read our Q & A with Sir John Beddington.

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