Farming is to be taken to the "top of the class" with the proposed merger announced today of the education programmes of the National Farmers' Union (NFU) and the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE).

Provisionally called the Food and Farming Education Trust (FFET), this will be formed out of a merger of the NFU's Education Millennium Trust (EMT) and the RASE's Food & Farming Education Service (FFES).

Currently the NFU's EMT runs seminars for school teachers to encourage them to take pupils onto farms and produce nationally acclaimed teacher materials which demonstrate how farm visits can meet children's curricular needs.

The RASE's FFES provides a telephone helpline and central source and distribution point for education materials and information for schools and colleges.

The FFET, to be renamed shortly, will build on the work of both organisations, allowing them to pool their resources and combine their complementary programmes to provide a stronger service. It will become effective from Autumn 2001.

RASE Chief Executive Mike Calvert and NFU Director General Richard Macdonald announced the setting up of the new Trust at the Oxford Farming Conference.

Mr Calvert said: "Co-operation brings strength. A headline fund of £600,000 will be created by this merger bringing the opportunity to make a real impact on schools and education.

"It should also attract investment and sponsorship from other organisations. No longer can the industry afford the luxury of duplication of effort with obvious overlap."

Mr Macdonald said: "In order to explain to future generations the importance of farming and how it contributes to our society, it is necessary to have a unified body supplying educational advice and encouraging school pupils to visit farms.

"This is crucial if we are to increase children's understanding of where food comes from and how it is produced. This will also provide an opportunity for other agricultural organisations to join us."

The NFU and RASE will jointly supervise the FFET, which will be managed from its headquarters in Stoneleigh by the RASE.

Notes to Editors:

The NFU started their Education Initiative in 1993 and then set up the charitable trust, EMT, in 1996 to continue the work. Since the Education Initiative started the NFU education team has hosted over 25,000 teachers in England and Wales, resulting in an increasing number of school visits taking place. Last year children from more than 20,000 primary and secondary schools visited farms and horticultural units across the country.

The FFES evolved in 1994 from the Association of Agriculture and the Food and Farming Information Service. FFES provides a resource bank designed for teachers by teachers of curriculum oriented farming information. This is produced by the FFES and its supporting organisations.

Contact Angela Lea at the RASE on 02476 858251 or Amy Ross at the NFU on 020 7331 7390.