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NFU AGM - Farming to Help Kick Start Economy

22 February 2012
TEXT HERE

UK - The UK's £100 billion food and farming industry can help to kick start the country's economic recovery, writes Chris Harris.

This was one of the main messaged from the NFU president Peter Kendall in his keynote speech to launch the National Farmers' Union annual conference in Birmingham.

Mr Kendall said the country needs growth to provide long-term food security.

The NFU president called on the British government and the European Commission for positive action rather than just rhetoric.

"Achieving growth is, first and foremost, a challenge for us - farmers and growers," Mr Kendall said.

"But it is also a huge challenge for our industry's scientists."

Mr Kendall applauded the UK government for their actions in moving forward on pilot cull areas for badgers in the fight against bovine TB and the moves to unblock the planning system to ease regulations for farmers.

However, Mr Kendall added that the messages coming out of the G20 and the UN mean that government has to deliver policies with a view to food security.

However, he hit out at the UK government's lack of progress in ensuring a Groceries Adjudicator was in place to ensure that the code of practice established two years ago to ensure fairness in the market between retailers, processors and producers.

He said that not having a Groceries Adjudicator is "antibusiness".

"I continue to hear of suppliers - particularly in fresh produce - being squeezed by supermarkets in a was which, if brought to light, would really shock consumers," he said.

Mr Kendal also hit out at the fact that the UK government has failed to agree the EU dairy package.

In her speech to the conference, the Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said that the government is determine to "forge a new partnership between government and farming".

She sid the government's Green Food Project represents a partnership between the government and the industry.

"To answer the question, 'How do you produce more food, at less cost to nature?' - To identify actions that are realistic as well as ambitious," she said.

Mrs Spelman add that the government wants to banish the myth that increased food production and environmental protection are incompatible.

She said the government is determined to help farmers grow more food more sustainably.

"We also want to help them to export more, to boost their own businesses, to help boost the recovery and to take their share of the emerging markets across the world."

She said that to help do this the government launched the food exports action plan last month - a government and industry partnership.

She said the centre of the export boost was the Made in Britain brand.

"That's why we've been working hard for country of origin labelling. That's why we are encouraging more protected food names," said Mrs Spelman.

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