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NFU Report makes the case for 21st century farming
11/12/06

A campaign to explain why farming is becoming more, not less, important to 21st century Britain is being launched by the NFU today, Monday.


farmland

Entitled “Why Farming Matters”, and built around a major report of that name, it is intended to de-bunk the notion that mainstream food production can safely be allowed to migrate to other parts of the world, leaving a dwindling number of British farmers and growers to focus on niche markets and diversification.

The report argues in a world where food supplies will inevitably come under increasing pressure from a combination of rapidly increasing demand on the one-hand, and the threat to productivity from climate change on the other, Britain can no longer expect to be able to buy food cheaply from around the world if it allows its own farming capacity to run down.

The demand for land to produce renewable energy is another powerful driver in the overall situation which will both provide opportunities for farmers and tighten the squeeze on the available food supply worldwide.

However, the report highlights how the future for British farming will be about a lot more than just commodities. Maintaining the productive capacity of agriculture and horticulture will also be vitally important in meeting the growing demand from consumers for distinctive, high quality, low food mile products.

Alongside all of this, the report also demonstrates farming’s importance as a force for good in the British countryside, with over four million hectares of land under environmental management in England and Wales, hedgerows being re-planted and many species of farmland birds and mammals on the increase.

Launching the report at a dinner in London on Monday night, NFU President Peter Kendall said: “For far too long, the importance of farming to Britain has at best been taken for granted and, at worst, been written off as irrelevant and out of date.

“We believe that for all sorts of reasons, ranging from the security of our food supplies, the quality of our environment and rural economy and the battle against climate change, this is a dangerous notion that needs to be challenged.

“However, this campaign is not about what farming needs from the country, so much as what farming can do for the country. It is what farming offers that makes farming matter.

“Nor is this an argument for unrestrained growth or for environmental irresponsibility. The key to the future will be to ensure farming has the capacity to produce the food and energy the nation needs and the environment that it aspires to. That is what genuine sustainability is all about. The new ‘smart’ technologies will increasingly give us the capacity to do that and I know the farming community is up for the challenge.”

Mr Kendall stressed the NFU’s ‘Why Farming Matters’ report was not “an extended begging letter for Government intervention in the marketplace”.

“Given a fair competitive environment and proportionate regulation, farmers and growers are more than capable of taking the industry forward themselves”, he said.

“What we do expect the Government to do is to avoid over-regulation, see fair play in the food chain, safeguard our international competitiveness and take, as their starting point, that it is in the national interest to help farming not to hurt it.

“All of that will be much more easily achievable if the Government and all of the other major players understand not only what farming contributes now to our economy, environment and society, but what it is capable of delivering in the future.

“Creating that understanding is what this campaign is all about”.

Note:

1. ‘Why Farming Matters’ is intended to be the main theme of the NFU’s campaigning work and political message throughout 2007. The campaign has its own website, www.whyfarmingmatters.co.uk from which both NFU members and members of the general public can order campaign materials, including posters, stickers, reports, leaflets and beer mats.

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