Peter Kendall, President of the National Farmers Union, has announced his intention to retire from the role next February. I for one, will miss him – simply because he provides me with so many easy blogs to write. Peter is not a shrinking violet.
When he enters a room, he has real presence – he is a big man, but he also exudes confidence and authority, before he even says anything. He is persuasive, articulate and knows his brief. I only once had the pleasure of having a debate with him over farming, land-use and conservation – he was a worthy opponent (not sure whethre he felt the same about me as I was the only one there challenging him). He would be an excellent politician, and wasted back on the arable plains of Bedfordshire, where he farms 1500 acres with his brother.
I have blogged about him quite often over the last 3 years of blogging – here, here and here for example I countered his claim there was no biodiversity crisis, but a productivity crisis. Here I explained what he really meant when he said “don’t plough up your old pastures” to farmers worried about new rules from the reformed CAP. Thanks to Peter those same farmers don’t need to worry now about the “greening rules” as they have already been watered down to the concentration of… well, water.
More recently I analysed an interview that the Guardian carried with Kendall – perhaps he had already decided to go by that point and this was his farewell speech.
Peter has been at the forefront of the NFU’s push to change the image of farming to the British public, and this has only been partially successful – particularly now that the NFU and the badger cull are inextricably linked. But first and foremost he has worked tirelessly make sure that the F for Farming looms far larger in Whitehall than the E or the RA in Defra. And he has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.
This is Peter’s legacy –
Pushed the Environment back into its box, through an effective propaganda war on conservation and environmental concerns;
Focussed political and media attention on intensive agricultural production at any cost, driving forward deregulation in Agriculture.
Protected the huge Three Billion pounds a year public welfare payments that farmers receive, for doing nothing, through the Common Agricultural Policy,
Destroyed any hopes of a reform process to enable the CAP to provide public services for public goods.