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Agriculture: Productivity

Volume 460: debated on Wednesday 9 May 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to help improve the productivity of farming. (136075)

[holding answer 8 May 2007]: Total factor productivity for UK farming, which shows the volume of output leaving the industry per unit of all inputs including fixed capital and labour, rose by 2.1 per cent. in 2006. More information about the productivity levels of UK farming can be found in the DEFRA publication ‘Agriculture in the United Kingdom’.

DEFRA continues to conduct research, at both the farm level and through aggregate comparisons with other countries, into what influences the productivity of UK farming.

Improving productivity is a key element for our vision for farming, which identifies an industry that is profitable in the market place, makes a positive net environmental contribution and manages the landscape and the natural assets that underlie it.

We are undertaking a range of actions to improve the competitive position of farming in England. These include:

i. The use of Axis 1 funding of the new Rural Development Programme for England, which will be used to promote greater awareness of market opportunities, including for diversified enterprises, the benefits of collaboration and co-operation, and the acquisition of skills needed to exploit new opportunities.

ii. Restructuring the five statutory horticulture and agriculture levy boards into one overarching levy board with subsidiary, sectoral companies, thus allowing for efficiencies and commonalities to be identified, in order to help the sectors involved. For example, the new structure will facilitate exchange of information across the sectors on issues of common interest such as water and waste.

iii. In addition to that available under the agriculture development scheme, the Government have provided a significant amount of dedicated funding to the Food Chain Centre and the Red Meat and Cereals Industry Forums, and English Farming and Food Partnerships, as a transitional measure to help the industry adapt to a more market-orientated future.

iv. Implementation of the non-food crops strategy, which aims to drive forward the bio-based economy through research, dissemination of technology and knowledge, and building supply chains from agriculture to industry.

v. Supporting the quality regional food sector through a five year £5 million programme (which began in 2003-04) with the specific objective of creating a flourishing high quality regional food sector.

vi. Working with stakeholders to progress the action plan to develop organic food and farming in England which aims to create a sustainable and competitive organic farming and food sector.

vii. Support for farmers to take advantage of financial risk management products to enable them to be more resilient to increased price volatility, and to increase uptake of the business benchmarking software that is available under through the whole farm approach.

viii. Helping farmers and growers under the public sector food procurement initiative (PSFPI) to develop the capabilities and capacity necessary to meet the public sector's requirements for food.

ix. Establishment of the biomass action plan with the objective of addressing barriers to the production of biomass energy, and stimulating the development of the sector.

x. Improving the regulation of farming, by making it more effective, and efficient for farmers, thus helping them to reduce costs and increase competitiveness.

xi. The whole farm approach (WFA) helps farmers to identify where there is a regulatory requirement and the actions necessary to fulfil that requirement, supported by targeted help and guidance.

xii. Developing a business competence framework for the environmental and land-based sectors to provide a clear understanding of what skills an individual will require to work in particular industries and in particular jobs within those industries.

xiii. Supporting the initiative which aims to encourage new people into the farming industry with the appropriate skills to succeed in a market-driven environment.