Put farming at the heart of politics, NFU says

Farming must be put at the heart of the political agenda ahead of a general election to help the industry meet its production and environmental targets, the NFU has said.

Speaking at the launch of its “Why Farming Matters More Than Ever” campaign in London on Thursday (17 September), NFU president Peter Kendall said any future government must commit to helping the industry address the challenges it faces.

Announcing the union’s election manifesto, Mr Kendall identified seven areas, including investment, animal health and the environment, that an incoming government needed to address.

The manifesto also suggested policies a future government could implement to improve the industry, such as reviewing DEFRA quangos, an increase in agricultural research and the implementation of an effective TB eradication plan.

“With a general election due next year this is our opportunity to set out the actions we would like an incoming government to take to allow the industry to respond to change,” Mr Kendall said.

“We are asking for policy commitments that are pragmatic considering the budgetry constraints.

“The manifesto proposes practical, easily implementable policies. We need to see a change before the election to put agriculture at the centre of our thinking.”

DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn welcomed the manifesto and said the government was intent on working in partnership with the industry to help farmers increase production while reducing environmental impact.

“We have worked hard with the industry over the past year with regards to EID, pesticides and the agreement over the farmed environment,” he said.

“The agreement we came to shows our willingness to work with you to reach those objectives.”

Shadow agriculture minister Nick Herbert backed the NFU’s “seven pillars of wisdom”.

Budgetry and environmental challenges meant an incoming government would need to look more carefully at the way it worked with farmers, he added.

“We need to look at quangos within DEFRA to check they are value for money.

“Too many people with clipboards are running around the country telling farmers what to do,” he said. “We need a serious agenda to confront that.”

Roger Williams, Liberal Democrat food and farming minister, said addressing input use, agricultural research and relationships between suppliers and retailers would be vital for any future government to help farmers meet their objectives.

“The NFU’s manifesto is hugely beneficial to stimulate debate ahead of this election,” he added.

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