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Miliband recognises that farming matters

[Tuesday 04 July 2006]

DURING his speech at the Royal Show yesterday Rural Affairs Secretary David Miliband gave out a message that was for once welcomed among the rural community - that farming Matters.

david miliband
Miliband - farming matters

In his speech, Mr Miliband admitted that when appointed to the role he knew little about British Agriculture: "Eight weeks ago, when the Prime Minister asked me to lead Defra, I was acutely conscious of how little I knew about farming.

"In many ways, I still am. But over the last eight weeks I have tried to listen and see and read, and I have learnt a lot."

The secretary of State's words highlighted a sharp contrast between him and predecessor Margaret Becket who was regularly criticised for not listening to the farming community, especially over the debacle at the Rural Payments Agency.

Although there are still problems facing farmers with regards to the Single Payment Scheme, progress has been made over the last eight weeks.

Mr Miliband continued: "I've learnt that farming is at the heart of our society, our economy and our cultural heritage. Its about people, food, landscape and the environment…farming is important not just for the countryside but for the whole country."

The Secretary went to say that farming faces challenges in three specific areas: Building a profitable, competitive and innovative industry; to be more proactive in its role as a countryside guardian and promoting animal welfare and environmental sustainability; to fulfil its role in securing the sustainability of rural communities.

I've learnt that farming is at the heart of our society, our economy and our cultural heritage

David Miliband - Rural Affairs Secretary

On the platform with Mr Miliband, NFU President Peter Kendall responded by saying that such targets can be met through a partnership between the farming industry and government.

"What we need is a government partnership to come up with solutions to bring the whole industry together and put emphasis on science and development. We need to keep the critical mass in farming to build a strong, competitive and domestic agricultural industry.

"The industry needs a supply chain where people are rewarded for their social responsibility and for retailers to accept there are additional costs to food produced in the UK, in particular for welfare issues. Food security is of growing importance and we need to retain a strong agricultural base.

"I would like to see investment in smart solutions and we must ensure our environmental footprint is right. How we manage our land use is critical to our future."

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