Cameron: Farming should go green

David Cameron has said farming has a positive future – if it exploits the new trends for ethical and green produce.

Growing crops for bio-fuels, promoting the UK’s good animal welfare standards, demand for local food and organic produce all present opportunities for farmers in the years to come – the Conservative leader told the Oxford Farming Conference today.

“I think that if we take the right approach, the British countryside can have a productive – and profitable – future,” Mr Cameron said.

Despite the difficult economics, market shocks and poor politics of the past Mr Cameron saw “reasons for real optimism about the future” of farming in the UK.

These included the importance of food security, the opportunities combating climate change present, and the rise of the ethical consumer. Cost “isn’t the only consideration” any more, the Tory leader said.

“I’m convinced that the long-term interest of British farming is best served by British consumers demanding quality British produce.”

But to make the most out of this trend, there needed to be changes in food labelling.

“Food can be imported to Britain, processed here, and subsequently labelled in a way that suggests it’s genuinely British,” Mr Cameron said.

“That is completely wrong.”

He said a Conservative government would do “all it could” to promote greener farming.

This included challenging European legislation, looking at the incentives provided by the tax system for crops grown to help combat climate change, and possibly introducing minimum standards of animal welfare for imported produce.

He also called for a “revolution” in food procurement.

“The government should be doing everything it can within EU rules to source food for schools, hospitals and other public institutions locally,” Mr Cameron said.

And for consumers to be able to choose properly, “the government has its responsibility to ensure a proper labelling system”.

“But farmers must play their part by rising to this challenge,” he added.

“The demand for quality local British produce is there. It is up to farmers to seize the opportunity it represents.”