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NFU CONFERENCE - Farming for the Future

by 5m Editor
23 February 2010, at 11:59pm

UK - Food production should be on the front pages of all political agendas, not a footnote to them - this was a key message from the president of the National Farmers Union, Peter Kendall, writes ThePoultrySite senior editor, Chris Harris.

Speaking at the opening of the NFU conference in Birmingham, Mr Kendall said that with an increasing global population, more food will have to be produced and the agricultural industry will be growing in importance.

He added: "If feeding nine billion people by 2050 were the whole picture, it would be daunting enough.

"What make it different this time round are the threat of climate change, the pressure on our natural resources – water soils, biodiversity – and the fact that supplies of the fossil fuels are running out big time."

He said that the farming industry has to cut greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming and it is lowering carbon emissions in electricity, heating and transport.

Mr Kendall said that this is being done through hundreds of on-farm anaerobic digestion plants that will be up and running by 2020.

"They will turn farm manures and residues into energy and fertiliser for re-use on soils. A win, win, win," he said.

"Second, there's on-farm solar and wind power, producing electricity for the farm and for the grid.

"At the moment – with the feed-in tariffs as they are – small-scale wind power looks like an attractive option, but even solar electricity from our barn roofs could be a good long term investment.

"Third, through supplying bioenergy feedstocks for power stations and biofuels.

"It's already happening. There are two major bioethanol plants coming on stream this year.

"That's got to be good for us as farmers and even better for the country as a whole."

Mr Kendall said the agricultural industry also had to look to science and research to help increase productivity to meet the demand for food.

And he called on the farming industry to invest to become more competitive as well as relying on government investment.

He applauded moves by the Carbon Trust promoting interest-free loans for energy-efficient measures, but he said that the new the new feed-it-tariffs are too low &ndash particularly for dairy farmers thinking of establishing AD systems.

"The Government has missed a real opportunity to boost investment in small-scale anaerobic digesters," he said.

Mr Kendall called on the Government to cut costs and bureaucracy and urged a sharing of costs in the bid to fight animal diseases.

He showed that the cost of processing single farm payments was six times higher in England the and in Scotland and he demonstrated that the cattle tracing system in Australia was operated more cheaply and with fewer staff to cover more animals.

Mr Kendall said that the farming community has also to put the consumer first and recent changes have shown how consumers seeking locally produced food are becoming more aware of the products farmers are producing.

The awareness of local production was seen in bread manufacturers turning to 100 per cent British wheat, brewers using 100 per cent British barley and supermarkets labelling their meat products with the British Red Tractor logo.

Mr Kendall applauded the appointment of a grocery ombudsman and a code of practice to see fair competition between producers, processors and supermarkets.

He also applauded the introduction of the Government's Food 2030 plan placing food production back at the centre of agriculture.

"Agriculture is too strategic to be seen simply as an instrument for environment delivery," Mr Kendall said.