The Future of UK Farming conference this April 2018 included keynote speeches from the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove and NFU President Minette Batters, who each laid out their visions for the future of farming in the UK and what changes are needed. This film captures the session in full, including both keynotes as well as the thought-provoking audience question and answer.
Placing health at the forefront of his agenda, Gove recognised that human health is integrally linked to how food is produced and so the health of the environment is of equal importance – “there need not be a tension between growing healthy food and securing a healthy environment,” he asserted. The sustainability of the UK food system was placed front and centre and extended to include the need to sustain rural communities and culture. In 20 years’ time, he wants the UK to be a leader in sustainable food production, championing high animal welfare, healthy soil, increased wildlife on farms and less waste – it is a hopeful vision of change and renewal.
Crediting the Secretary of State for his good work, Minette Batters opened her keynote by saying that it is great to be working with a politician who can finally put “the importance of farming, the environment and food production very firmly on the political map”. Minette went on to trace the past twenty years of British farming, arguing that we are in fact starting Brexit with solid foundations, having halved our use of pesticides and inorganic fertiliser over the past twenty years, and with the growth of assurance schemes such as Red Tractor and LEAF to underpin our development. She explained her vision for a future of active farming businesses that are “sustainable, profitable and progressive”, delivering for all incomes. She welcomed the Secretary of State’s plan to enhance the reputation of the UK food system at home and abroad, stating that, “We’ve never needed a bigger bolder plan for food production than we do today.”
Both speakers were welcomed by an audience of over 300, with question topics ranging from animal welfare and religion, to the idea of paying farmers carbon credits to increase soil organic matter, measuring farm efficiency, the polluter pays principle and nitrogen fertiliser tax.
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