Tuesday, 23 February 2010
Peter Kendall was upbeat on the future of farming when he opened the conference this morning. Food production has risen up the political and public agenda and put farming under a brighter spotlight than it has enjoyed for years and the NFU seems to be revelling in it. Kendall is an impressive speaker and he made some intersting points about the need for the industry to invest in its own future and the opportunities for on-farm energy production - he feels that the government has missed a trick in not putting enough incentive farmers' way on anaerobic digestion. Both he and the subsequent speaker - Secretary of State Hilary Benn - mentioned the need for investment in science but only the latter was barracked. Or perhaps badgered is the right word. No news there, but the black and white issue did overshadow Benn's comments on the importance of food production in an era of climate change and his measured comments on cost sharing for animal disease. Nick Herbert, his Shadow, on the other hand, was wooing his natural constituency and promising to 'put the farming back into Defra'. He popped off a few shots at bureaucracy and red tape and the Rural Payments Agency which went down well. He supported cost sharing but on the basis of giving farmers a bigger say and controlling badgers in high TB areas. He is the darling of the conference - for this year at any rate.