Defra Secretary Michael Gove has promised to ‘look at’ amendments to the Agriculture Bill which would enshrine the importance of food production in law.
Mr Gove made the remarks during a Countryside Alliance (CA) event at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham this week.
The Government has come under increasing pressure to formally recognise the value of food production since Shadow Defra Secretary Sue Hayman committed the Labour Party to maintaining some form of direct payment linked to the food supply last week.
Mr Gove said: “I think the Bill as it stands is a good Bill, but we will obviously look at any suggestions from our own backbenchers or elsewhere about ways in which it can be improved.”
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Select Committee chair Neil Parish continued to press for food production to be mentioned on the face of the Agriculture Bill at the CA event.
He said: “I do not want to rewrite the Bill, I just want something in the Bill so Secretaries of State in future can see agriculture and supporting agriculture and food production is part of the environment.
“The Bill is good, but it wants a little bit of a tweak so it emphasises a little bit more agriculture.”
Mr Gove went on to hit out at the suggestion from some farming groups that food production should be recognised as a public good in itself.
He said: “The danger there is you use a specific economic term, public good, which we are using in order to make sure the Treasury supports something the market cannot provide.
“If you stretch the definition of that, you get into difficult territory with the economists, with Treasury and with others.
“We need to make sure food production is at the centre of the future of farming, but how we do that has to be targeted and focused and effective.”