NFU President Minette Batters has slammed the government for its "total lack of understanding of how food production works and what it needs."

This, together with the government's "poorly designed" change to immigration policy, has caused the "utter disgrace" that is the current pig crisis, she said in her keynote speech to the NFU annual conference on Tuesday (February 22).

She went on to say that the government has a "completely contradictory" policy whereby environmental standards in the UK are being raised while the trade deals being sought abroad are significantly lower.

Later that day Environment Secretary George Eustice said that he thought environmental protection and food production are "two sides of the same coin".

In her speech Ms Batters called for certainty, commitment and consistency for farmers from the government.


She said: "We need a plan that pre-empts crises, rather than repeatedly runs into them.

"The current situation in the pig sector should have, and could have, been avoided.

"There are currently 200,000 pigs on contract backed up on farm.

"40,000 healthy pigs have been culled and simply thrown away.

“This truly is an utter disgrace and a disaster for the pig industry.

"This is down to the government’s poorly designed change to immigration policy and what I can only say appears to be its total lack of understanding of how food production works and what it needs.

“This country needs a strategy and a clear vision for what we expect from British farming.

"We have completely contradictory government policies.

"It is raising the bar for environmental standards at home but pursuing trade deals which support lower standards overseas.

“It is claiming to value domestic food production but making it difficult to find workers to harvest or process it.

"It is stating there are many export opportunities for British food but failing to prioritise the resources to open up those new markets.

“If government wants to achieve more for the environment, then there is only one solution.

"We need policies and investment into the new world optimisation of agriculture.

"There needs to be a plan - a plan which enables Britain to keep on farming and to continue to be world leaders in high quality, safe and sustainable food.”

Later that day Environment Secretary George Eustice told the NFU conference that he considered that the NFU’s newly published 'blueprint' for the future of agriculture was absolutely right in saying food production and environmental protection must go hand-in-hand.

He said: “I’ve always maintained they are two sides of the same coin, we want sustainable agriculture and we want to work with farmers to deliver some of the environmental ambitions that we have."

In her speech Ms Batters launched a new report ‘British farming: a blueprint for the future’ to highlight the five key areas that the NFU believes that the government, supply chain and farmers need to prioritise:

• Commitment and investment from both government and retail to sell more British food at home and abroad

• Using the powers in the Agriculture Act to enable farmers and growers to trade fairly

• A new economic model that drives investment back into the land, ensuring the tenanted sector is not disadvantaged

• A dial-up, dial-down immigration policy

• Future farm policy with a properly funded Sustainable Farming Incentive