Government needs to think more carefully about how it spends money on agriculture if UK farmers are to meet targets for producing food and feeding growing populations.
Opening the NFU conference in Birmingham on Tuesday (23 February), union president Peter Kendall said that climate change, energy crises and food shortages awaited the next government unless it took a practical approach to smarter spending.
Addressing assembled food and farming ministers, Mr Kendall said that farming could offer solutions to those problems in future, regardless of which party came to power in the general election this year.
“During the past four years as President of the NFU I have been talking about the value of British farming,” he said.
“I have been arguing that farmers and growers could offer solutions to some of the enormous problems that mankind will have to grapple with over the next 50 years and my conviction remains stronger than ever in the face of the food shortages and potential energy crises.”
In addition to producing more food, Mr Kendall said that UK farmers also had the capacity to generate power through farm anaerobic digestion plants using slurry and waste.
“But – and this is a big but – unless Government agrees to sensible financial incentives and smarter spending, the solutions on offer will be strangled at birth.
“It is not about spending more – it’s about spending wisely. We are looking for a long-term framework that will really move small farm businesses in the right direction and make this sort of investment attractive to them.”
Mr Kendall pointed to England’s Single Payment Scheme and cattle tracing system which cost millions of pounds more than Scottish and Australian versions respectively.
“Savings in these areas could release money for essential research and development for food production,” he said.
“We are not asking Ministers to spend more money, just use what they do have wisely.”
Follow the NFU conference on FWi’s special report page.