What might farming’s regulatory framework look like under a Labour government? What about an outright Conservative premiership, or a landscape in which the Liberal Democrats, Plaid or UKIP have stronger voices?
In an election year there was much to discuss at the 2015 NFU Conference.
And delegates heard strong attempts to woo the farming vote, marshalled by BBC Radio Four stalwart John Humphrys. Here are the key pledges and promises:
What are your priorities?
“What stands out the most in our list of priorities is taking the UK out of the EU. We want to evoke article five of the Lisbon Treaty. At the top of the list is to create a proper trade relationship with the EU, because of the £50bn trading deficit we have with them. We would need a support system for the industry. With the RPA we would give £80 an acre and have a really good look at deregulation.”
“I'd like to see us toughen up the powers of the Groceries Code Adjudicator and respect for fair play for all producers throughout the food chain. The dairy industry needs urgent intervention, even if it's old fashioned intervention like MMB. Rural development funding needs to have a good reach and targeting to ensure money for infrastructure and diversity, as well as being used for agriculture.”
“First of all there needs to be a food plan that's an overarching strategy which looks at food security, climate change and issues facing us to make sure we have the food we need for sustainability. I'd like to see us looking at labelling issues, with a good country of origin scheme that's robust and takes account consumer trust. My view is that consumers want that information. The Groceries Code Adjudicator now has fining power and that is absolutely crucial.
"We need to extend this down the supply chain.”
“The industry needs a master plan, which looks at a wide range of food productivity, security and sustainability, as well as social logistics. Producers and their workers need to get a fair share in the chain. I'd like us to get back to the supremacy of science-based evidence, as it's so important at UK and EU level. We're not going to risk the future of farming by pulling out of the EU – it's right to stay.”
“It's our objective to grow the agriculture industry. We've got further to go with regulations – we've cut farm inspections by 30,000 a year and guidance by 80 per cent. We need to open markets, including new export markets. We also want to do more to make sure the public are buying British produce that's grown here. The first job of Government is defence and protecting the industry and that's why we will take the tough decision to roll back disease such as bovine TB, which is devastating the industry as it is.”
What would you like to see in the dairy industry?
George Eustice, Conservative: “I want to see it back in profit as it's been a rollercoaster over the last two years. My view is that prices will come back later this year, and we're seeing evidence of prices starting to turn and the prospects are good. Demand is growing two per cent per year. We can be competitiveand efficient, whilst supplying a global market. I'd like at how we develop a futures system like the US. “
Dan Rogerson, Liberal Democrat: “People want to have confidence in what they're buyying and the evidence suggests that people would pay a fair price. Support locally for dairy is huge because farming is a long-term industry. I think we need to talk to banks about how they work with farmers as well. Prices will come back but we need to have an industry there to take advantage of when that happens.”
Elfyn Llwyd , Plaid Cymru: “Should we not look at making a finanical framework for cooperatives? The government should lead this. The UK government should give farmers grant funding for market research, and assist them with bringing a co-op forward.”
Stuart Agnew, UKIP: “If farmers want to promote their own milk, why shouldnt they? Dairy is constrained by NVZs, and we want to look at this scientifically. Whilst NVZs are so strict it will restrict farmers and TTIP could seriously damage the dairy industry in the future.”
Huw Irranca-Davies: “We want to see a thriving dairy industry in the long term, but it has to be diverse. It's almost inevitable that there will be a consolidation of dairy producers. We have to find a way to diversify the sector and make sure that small and medium scale dairies can actually survive.”
George Eustice, Conservative: “Farmers getting a high price tend to be on aligned contracts with supermarkets. Supermarkets are selling at a loss but paying farmers more. We're not in favour of legislation against supermarket pricing. We need the processors and farmers to make sure the supermarkets are abiding by the code.”
On bovine TB...
George Eustice, Conservative: “We will continue our 25 year strategy. This will include the cull of badgers in infected areas. You cannot reverse the tide of TB unless you tackle the reservoir of disease.”
Huw Irranca-Davies, Labour: “We won't continue with the culls. We agree it needs tackling in the reservoir. We argue on evidence and there is a different way to do it. Welsh evidence shows pre-vaccination that the controls they're putting in are driving down the herd incidence of TB.”
Elfyn Llwyd , Plaid Cymru: “These animal rights activists must realise that killing cattle because they have TB time after time when they've proven positive is cruel in itself. This needs to be drawn to a head.”
Dan Rogerson, Liberal Democrat: “My own view as a backbencher has been consistent in the way I look at all options – a strategy that tackles all.”
Stuart Agnew, UKIP: “We're not afraid to cull if the science supports it. I would like to see the selected gassing of infected sets. There's a test that now shows if a set is infected or not. We need to educate the public about what TB does to a badger – it takes four years to infect it. We have to do all we can to get it under control.”
How do I watch live?
If you’ve got a computer and an internet connection, you can watch most of the sessions in the main hall by clicking on the player in this page.
How the session developed on Twitter...