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The Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food presented its report to the government today. ...
The Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food presented its report to the government today.

Farming and Food: A Sustainable Future was handed over to Defra secretary of state Margaret Beckett by commission chairman Donald Curry.

The prime minister, who set up the commission last August, said:

'I am extremely grateful to Sir Donald, other members of the policy commission, and all those who have contributed their views for the thought, enthusiasm and sheer hard work that I know has gone into this report.

'Farming was our first industry, and food production probably our second. Their role is growing ever wider: providing safe, quality food and exports, supporting the rural economy, and managing some of the most beautiful landscape in the world. And they remain vitally important to this country.

'However, agriculture needs to change. As the commission note, the current situation benefits no-one: farmers, taxpayers, consumers, or the environment. Farmers struggling with the lowest incomes for decades don't need me to tell them that.

'The commission's vision for a future of sustainable food and farming industries is one that many will find attractive. But, as ever, the challenge is in getting there. We want to work with farmers and all other stakeholders to build a consensus for change. Margaret Beckett and I are fully committed to delivering on this challenge.'

Margaret Beckett said:

'I would like to add my thanks to those of the prime minister. Sir Donald and his commissioners have worked very hard and have delivered a very interesting and thorough report.

'A sustainable and profitable future for our farming and food industries is of major importance for the government. The report is clear that its recommendations are not just for government, which is why I want to work closely with farmers and stakeholders to turn our vision into a reality.

'What we have now is a system that rewards farmers for producing quantity, not necessarily quality, and is a disincentive to the restructuring and modernisation that our agriculture needs.

'This report points the way towards greater co-operation across the food chain, greater attention to the needs of consumers and a proper appreciation of the importance farming has for our rural environment. I believe it offers a sound basis for taking our work forward together. The government stands ready to work with the food and farming industries as they address the challenges they face.'

Health secretary Alan Millburn said:

'Tackling cancer and heart disease means investing in prevention as well as treatment. Improving diet and nutrition is a key preventive measure. The food and farming community has a vital role to play in reaching our health goals - to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and reduce fat, salt and sugar intake. The National School Fruit Scheme shows how good ideas and investment can encourage healthier eating. I welcome this report and its vision for making healthier food more widely available.'

* The policy commission's report is available here.

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