Farm leaders outline top challenges for Defra secretary Truss

Liz Truss

© David Hartley/REX

Industry leaders have welcomed the reappointment of Liz Truss as Defra secretary. But what challenges does she face when it comes to farming? 

See also: 10 farming priorities for the new government

On-farm investment – Meurig Raymond, NFU president 

Meurig Raymond

The Conservative manifesto around farming wasn’t too dissimilar to the NFU manifesto.

The challenge now is to convince Liz Truss and the government to implement those policies.

But there are some huge difficulties – including difficulties around the basic payment scheme.

I am delighted she has talked about a 25-year plan to grow UK food and farming.

So there are some positives. But it will take a lot of collaboration and co-operation between the government and the farming industry to achieve that.

We have won the argument about [the importance of] self-sufficiency.

What the government must do now is put some fiscal policies in place to encourage investment on farm so farmers can become more productive because then they will become more competitive.

Working together – Michael Seals, chairman, Animal Health & Welfare Board England

Michael SealsThe big challenge is to get industry and government working together far better than they have done in the past – using the resources available to do things in a far better way – and earned recognition is all part of that. It is about partnership.

Genuine earned recognition where you can be secure in the knowledge that a particular farm has done everything that it should is hard to define. But farm assurance schemes take us a long way down that road.

Trust takes time to evolve and earned recognition is about trust.

Food labelling – Stephen James, Wales 

Stephen JamesAlthough agriculture is a devolved issue for Wales, our market is outside Wales – the marketplace for Welsh produce is global whether that is the UK, Europe or further afield.

So Europe has to be high on the agenda because there is going to be a referendum on the UK’s EU membership.

Getting British food back into schools, hospitals and prisons – public procurement – is a big issue for us.

Hospital food is a joke. People say you don’t want to end up in hospital because of the food. But if we had better quality food, maybe people would get better sooner.

The Conservative manifesto said food purchased by government departments would be to British standards by the end of this parliament.

Food should be labelled showing where it is from and how it is produced.

People should know if their beef was produced in America using hormones.

Europe – Henry Robinson, president, Country Land & Business Association

Henry RobinsonWe are going to end up talking about our relationship with the EU a lot during the next two years.

That brings a number of challenges, particularly around the implications of the timing and how much renegotiation there might be.

That in itself will be quite a challenge. The question I would ask is “Do you think the Treasury would cheerfully give the same amount of money – comparable money – to British or English farming?”

The answer is that they may do, but nobody knows.

I like to think a healthy scepticism will shine through and [that a UK exit from the EU] won’t happen.But who knows? Let’s find out what the facts are – and deal with what the facts turn out to be with regard to renegotiation.

Farm inspections – David Clarke, chief executive, Assured Food Standards

David ClarkeThe earned recognition issue is fairly simple – and most of it is place.

What the government needs to do better is co-ordinate the work of all the agencies that exist and make them stick to the plan, becasue to be perfectly blunt, some of them don’t.

Red Tractor inspections already cover many of the criteria that are dealt with by the government agencies.

We would say that if a farm has a certificate from Red Tractor, they do not need to be treated as a priority by government agencies which can focus their limited resources elsewhere.

Pesticide rules – Nick von Westenholz, chief executive, Crop Protection Association

Nick von WestonholzA lot of the regulation that impacts on the availability of pesticides comes from Brussels – and the UK government is in a position to take an enlightened role and lead a way of thinking in Europe that is about risk management rather than risk avoidance.

It is about evidence-led policy and balanced, proportional policymaking rather than knee-jerk reactions to the scaremongering and campaigning that we have seen far too much of when it comes to European policy making on pesticides.

The Conservatives have a strong record on science and innovation over the past five years as part of the coalition.

There was a strong emphasis of that in their manifesto prior to this election and we hope to see more of it over the next five years.

Science – Paul Temple, board member, Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB)

Paul TempleThe reappointment of Liz Truss as Secretary of State gives us a degree of continuity that we weren’t really expecting.

It means we can carry on the work we were doing and having a single party in government allows them to look forward too.

The AHDB is not a political organisation in any shape or form – but science is a huge part of our work and to have support within that field is really important.

The coalition government was very supportive of science and we believe that same scientific approach must continue.

Exchange rates – Jack Ward, chief executive, British Growers Association

Jack WardExchange rates are always a challenge.

Everything is 15% cheaper if you buy it from the continent.

If you look at the top fruit sector, for example, the supermarkets have done a really good job of standing by UK produce when it would have been cheaper to bring it in from abroad.

That’s particularly true at the moment when you have generally comparable growing seasons across Europe.

We had a really good growing season last year, the Russian import ban and Europe awash with produce. It’s been a case of, “Shall I buy it at this price or go to Poland and buy it at much less?”.

Supermarkets buy a vast amount of produce.

They are difficult to deal with because they have a difficult customer base to deal with.

Consumers have changed significantly over the past 10 years – they are very much sharper and very much more aware of what they are buying

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