NFU's leader's big food challenge

Farmers' leader Peter Kendall is stepping up efforts to highlight the industry's key role in delivering environmental benefits and quality home-grown food.

Farmers' leader Peter Kendall is stepping up efforts to highlight the industry's key role in delivering environmental benefits and quality home-grown food.

He said that farmers in England must not be disadvantaged by more generous agricultural support arrangements in Wales, Scotland or France and Germany.

Mr Kendall, president of the National Farmers' Union, who spent two days at the Suffolk Show, said: "It is fundamental to our work where we're trying to make government see that productive farming is important."

Cereal grower Mr Kendall, who farms near Biggleswade with his brother, was obviously pleased that wheat prices topped £100 per tonne but recognised that this would add serious burdens on the livestock industry and especially the hard-pressed dairy sector.


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The NFU has become increasingly concerned at the rapid rate of the switch in support arrangements.

"It is pretty alarming for farmers who are seeing a pretty rapid move now from historic to regional payments where we're having 19pc modulation in two years where it is five per cent in any other European country.

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"The disadvantage of being an English farmer versus a Welsh or Scots or French or German is getting bigger and bigger," he said.

"We do need to focus strongly on whether we're increasing the percentage of food being produced at home. Look at the horticultural sector and also the dairy sector. We've seen a lot of people leaving the dairy industry. We're importing more and more from Spain and Portugal.

"What I don't want to see is that government think that if some sectors are doing well - and coming out of a depressed time, now here's an opportunity to go and clobber them."

"Farmers will move around Europe and they will move to whether there is a comparative advantage and I think Government needs to look very carefully at support mechanisms."

Mr Kendall said that the NFU has undertaken some detailed comparitive costings. We compared dairy farmers in Northumberland and in Scotland, where both have about 1m litre of milk quota. He said that over five years the English farmer "on a couple of hundred acre farm is £30,000 worse off".

"This is money needed to invest in environmental protection and improve buildings to make sure that the environmental footprint is reduced."

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