Minister pledges to protect funds that boost R&D

Minister of state for agriculture and food Jim Paice pledged to try to protect current Defra funds for horticultural research and development, at last week's European Food & Farming Partnerships conference. However, he said that private farms should get involved by sharing their expertise.

Answering a question on the horticultural task force, which recently recommended more investment in research and development, he said: "We will try to protect the money that Defra puts into research and development. But we need to find pockets of money from elsewhere. Creating centres of excellence in private farms could help show other farmers the way to go."

In a 20-minute speech, Paice pointed out that the Government would be encouraging farmers to work more closely with the food industry. He said that farming in Britain - as an industry - is only worth £7bn. However, when food production, catering and retail is taken into consideration, the food industry is worth around £90bn. He said that an industry of this size could create some of the jobs that the country needs.

Food standards should be raised, continued Paice, announcing that public buying standards for food would be introduced by all public bodies, particularly for schools.

He also suggested that the Government would be encouraging farming by having a minimum of regulation. The Government viewed Defra as an economic department, he said, designed to boost industry: "We want this to succeed. Sometimes we have to keep out of the way of successful business."

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