This week marks a year since Michael Gove was appointed Defra Secretary of State, an occasion which makes me stop and take stock of the past 12 months following the General Election.
Brexit is still the word on everyone’s lips and it remains the core part of the NFU’s work. For me, and the organisation, there is no bigger priority than making sure food is at the forefront of the debate.
When the Government’s Health and Harmony consultation was released, it was quickly recognised the strategic importance of food production in this country was lacking from its vision.
In short, if we are not producing food, growing fruit, vegetables and flowers then we are not farmers or growers. It is our livelihood and it underpins the entire rural economy.
Together, we produce a safe, traceable, quality product which is affordable for all incomes, doing so while adhering to some of the highest animal health and welfare standards in the world.
What better message can there be for farmers to deliver to the public?
It was this message, alongside the NFU’s engagement with Government, which led to ministers admitting they needed to talk more about food production in their vision for a new agricultural policy.
As an island nation, our domestic food supply is vital. Mr Gove is the first Defra Secretary to have the national food supply in his remit and it cannot be understated just what an important responsibility this is.
There have been indications of where a future food policy may be heading. For example, there has been a vision for a ‘gold standard’ of food labelling.
In my eyes, the Red Tractor already delivers a gold standard to the public by assuring them British food is safe, high welfare and traceable back to British farms. Continued support for such assurance schemes will be crucial in the future and can help to bolster the British brand as we help take it to new, global markets.
Moving forward, we know there will be a focus on the environment and I am confident from speaking to farmers across the country there is huge passion out there to enhance our farmed environment.
A new policy must reflect that the best way to achieve an enhanced countryside is to ensure there are productive, profitable and progressive farms to deliver it. Environmental work and food production work best together, hand in hand.
Having a high-profile politician such as Michael Gove in post provides our industry with an opportunity to make farming’s voice heard, particularly at this crucial time.
By working together with farmers, industry, the supply chain and Government, I am confident we can deliver a bright future for British farming.