Serving the Farming Industry across East Anglia for 35 Years
Technology can show way forward British agriculture has bright future, says farm minister

Innovation and championing high-quality food production is the future of British agriculture, says farm minister Mark Spencer.

A renewed focus on food security means British farmers can look to the future with confidence, Mr Spencer told a 60-strong audience of growers, livestock producers, students and agricultural advisers at Shuttleworth College, Bedfordshire.

Organised by the East of England Agricultural Society, the event saw Mr Spencer welcomed back by the college he once attended as a student to deliver the annual Shuttleworth Lecture and answer questions from the audience on Thursday, 11 May.

The Conservative MP for Sherwood in Nottinghamshire was welcomed by East of England Agricultural Society chairman Charlie Reynolds. The Q&A session was hosted by Phil Jarvis, chairman of Albanwise Farming and Environment.

“It isn’t always people but events that drive innovation in agriculture,” said Mr Spencer. “World War II drove huge innovation with the government solely focused on winning the war, which included feeding the nation.

Need to feed

“This policy led us to feeding the whole of Europe, which we did quite successfully for 80 years. The government at the time was focused wholly and laser-like on the need to feed, and I wonder what historians will look back on and think for 2022/23.

“Will we take on the challenges that we face in the same way? With the challenges coming out of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the need to challenge the climate crisis, we are the holders of the baton in our sector.”

With horticultural producers in the audience, Mr Spencer was asked to address the power balance between growers, producers and the retailers. “We need to work on making both retailers and consumers understand that quality comes at a premium price,” he said.

Asked about the prospects for gene edited crops, Mr Spencer said: “We need to get better at communicating that moves in science can be good for us, and I think that’s one lesson we have all taken from the development and rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination.”

Mr Spencer also encouraged the sector to take back some responsibility for marketing British produce to their local communities.