NFU urges coalition progress commitment

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THE coalition Government must commit to a number of measures in its second year in power in order to secure progress for the UK’s farming industry.

That was the message from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) as it reviewed coalition’s performance during its first year in office.

Overall the NFU was positive about the policies put in place for Britain’s farming industry, particularly praising the adoption of a business plan by Defra with sustainable food and farming at its heart.

There was also rare praise for the controversial Big Society agenda – calling the localism agenda “instinctively attractive to farmers”.

However the union’s president Peter Kendall also remarked that a number of important commitments remained on the “to do list” for the Cabinet and called for “significant progress” in the second year of the coalition.

Mr Kendall said: “A year may seem like a long time in politics, but we appreciate that it is still early days for the Coalition and its efforts to reshape farming policy. As farmers, we have all been heartened by the shift in stance in government towards recognising the importance of growing production sustainably and helping the industry succeed.

“The Coalition agreement reflected a number of major policy calls made by the NFU in our manifesto document last year. Some of these have already been achieved: the report from the Farming Regulation Task Force is a good example of positive work to create a regulatory environment in which farm businesses can thrive.

“More widely, Government has shown a commitment to science by protecting R&D programme spend from the worst of the cuts. We welcome that as investment in R&D is critical to future growth.”

“But we need to see real progress on important commitments over the course of the next year.”

Mr Kendall said that foremost among these were measures to tackle bovine TB – still a major problem for farmers in the south with a handful of incidents having been reported in Yorkshire.

Legislation to institute a badger cull has stalled of late and Mr Kendall called for “carefully managed and science-led control of badgers” to help to stem the spread of the disease.

He also called for the introduction of government buying standards for food and further leadership alongside other European member states regarding CAP reform.

“The Foresight report on food and farming which was published in January needs to be seen as a reference point for the Government’s policy ambitions on food and farming,” he said.

“We’re looking forward to working closely with the Coalition in its second year in driving UK food policy forward on the back of this report.”

The NFU also argued that concepts such as the Big Society were encouraging industry-led solutions to major challenges such as climate change and environmental protection.

However it added that without clear national frameworks, especially in relation to planning, there were risks that the Government’s objectives to create a sustainable food and farming sector could be seriously undermined by local objections to development in farming and manufacturing businesses.

Help offered with fodder

Farmers affected by the unseasonably dry weather of late are being urged to take advantage of the NFU’s fodder bank.

The free online service is designed to help farmers with shortages and surpluses of cattle feed and bedding and allows them to appeal for stocks or list what they have to sell.

NFU farm inputs adviser Peter Garbutt said: “We hope members use this free service to help off-load any surplus requirements which others are so desperate for during this difficult spell.”