NFU president Peter Kendall called for society to show a greater appreciation of farming and its role in producing food and protecting the environment.
In a keynote speech to the NFU East Anglia conference last Thursday (2 November), Mr Kendall criticised the tendency for people outside agriculture to play down the importance of farming to the country’s economy and countryside.
“Some people think of farmers as park keepers, whose role is to supply niche markets with speciality foods and provide holiday accommodation,” he told delegates at Chilford Hall, Cambridgeshire.
“There is no doubt that those business opportunities are extremely important to the rural economy, and that farmers are entering environmental stewardship schemes with enthusiasm, but it is essential that the core business of farming is recognised for the critical role it plays in feeding our citizens and the contribution it makes to the nation’s economy.”
Over the past decade, the UK’s food self sufficiency has dropped by 18%, said Mr Kendall. But farmers still produced 60% of the nation’s food. Including the tourism and food industries, almost 5m jobs were dependent on agriculture which underpinned a sector worth £90bn every year.