Goodbye Peter Kendall

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.

About Miles King

UK conservation professional, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my own and not my employers. I don't write on behalf of anybody else.
This entry was posted in agriculture, anti conservation rhetoric, anti-environmental rhetoric, badgers, bees, biodiversity, Common Agricultural Policy, deregulation, environmental policy, farming, NFU, Peter Kendall, public goods, regulatory reform and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Goodbye Peter Kendall

  1. But you’ve eaten affordable food OK Miles in the interim?!
    The tradeoff that no one wants to face: the externalising of the environmental cost of food production.

  2. milesking10 says:

    Yes but I don’t think I have Peter to thank for that. And increasing numbers of people are having to use foodbanks, so food is clearly not affordable to them despite the sort of intensive farming the NFU promote and protect. Who are the winners Rob?

  3. Miles, who would you thank for your grub? Cheaper imports that export the environmental problem?
    Some food bank users (some with very nice flatscreen TVs/smartphones/Sky Sports – you’ll give me grief for that outrageous comment which no one dares to vocalise) are deciding how to spend their money and very much the minority – tough as it is when food is a higher % spend of income from the av of 12% for most of us.

    This will run and run – see my blast at farmers/conservationists in Farmers Weekly here –


  4. milesking10 says:

    Thanks Rob. It’s pointless bringing it down to where my food comes from, or yours. And it’s certainly not simply the case that imported food has a bigger environmental footprint than home-grown, as you know.

    If it is true that consumers would baulk at spending more than 12% of their income on food, and that contributes to externalising the cost of food production onto the environment, then I would call that market failure, which needs to be addressed through regulation. Converting the current farm welfare system (CAP) into a public goods for public money approach would help. Or do you agree with next NFU president contender Meurig Raymond who castigated “Goalposts” Paterson last week, claiming the CAP payments were farmers money by right.

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