Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy must not ignore the increasing importance of food production, the government has been warned.
NFU president Peter Kendall called for policies that encouraged more productive and competitive food production by farmers.
A wholesale switch towards environmental support must be avoided at all costs, he told a Conservative Party conference fringe meeting attended by all three DEFRA ministers.
“There have been comments made by all sorts of political parties about the need to move towards spending money on preserving the environment.
“We want a CAP that helps us be more productive and competitive at the same time as looking after the environment.”
It would be wrong to move payments dramatically away from production towards looking after the environment, Mr Kendall told delegates at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Birmingham.
“It would have the effect of making farmers more, not less, dependent on the brown envelope. We want a more productive and competitive industry.”
DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman said it was early days in CAP reform negotiations.
“With CAP reform coming up, we’re going to be fighting our corner to get a good deal for farmers, consumers, taxpayers and the environment,” she pledged.
“That means being pro-active, engaged, and playing hardball where we have to.”
But it was already clear that ministers from across Europe agreed on the need that the regulatory burden faced by farmers should be reduced.
This would help farmers increase production, Mrs Spelman suggested.