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NFU CONFERENCE - Opposition Launches New Agenda for Agriculture

by 5m Editor
25 February 2010, at 1:32p.m.

UK - A shake up of the food and agriculture industries has been promised following the forthcoming general election in the UK if the opposition Conservative party wins control, writes ThePoultrySite senior editor Chris Harris.

Speaking to the National Farmers Union Conference in Birmingham, the Shadow environment secretary Nick Herbert said he would put farming back as a focus of the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs.

Mr Herbert also issued the Conservative agenda for faming in the future in A New Age of Agriculture - the Conservative Agenda for British Farming.

The policy document sets out proposals for the political management of farming in the UK looking at promoting fair competition, reducing the burden of regulation and providing long-term stability through the Common Agricultural Policy.

Mr Herbert said that there will be a need the government to cut the budget for the farming industry because of the current financial crisis.

However, he said that with the CAP being reviewed in 2013, the farming sector will be shielded from heavy cuts in Europe for a few years.

"We can't go back to the days of price support or intervention that distorted the market," said Mr Herbert.

"British farming will need to continue to adjust to the new world.

"No government is going to be writing larger cheques to farming over the years ahead and government itself is going to have to be leaner and more efficient."

Mr Herbert said that farming will also have to face up to environmental challenges.

"Environmental goods and services will become an increasingly important source of revenue for farms," he said.

"We'll need to build on agri-environment schemes and ensure that they deliver more."

He said that he would look to take steps to reduce carbon emissions from agriculture.

"I'm not talking about ill-judged calls to cut livestock numbers or tell people to stop eating meat – demands, which not only damage farming but also undermine the vital cause of tackling dangerous climate change," he said.

Mr Herbert said there is a growing interest among consumers for local food and he called on the industry to recognise consumer demands and said that government should back schemes for honest labelling of food.

He also called for a shared responsibility between the farming community and the authorities for livestock disease outbreaks.

And he said that the government and farming industry needed to share the cost burden of outbreaks.

He also promised the conference that he would introduce a controlled cull of badgers to help control bovine tuberculosis (TB).

"We'll be led by the science," he said.

"It'll be a tough decision, but that is what being in government should be about."