The Agriculture Strategy Industry Forum hosted by Nick Brown met for the second time today to review progress on the Action Plan for Farming and explore opportunities for further action.

The Forum involved representatives of Government Departments, the farming, food, retail, and catering sectors and consumers and, at this meeting, concentrated on the industry in England.

Speaking after the Forum today, Nick Brown said

"The Action Plan is part of the Goverment's long-term strategy for the future development of the agriculture industry. It is an exercise in partnership with all players in the food chain to foster a farming industry that is more competitive, diverse, flexible, responsive to consumer wishes, environmentally responsible and an integral part of the rural and wider economy.

"Excellent progress is being made in delivering the Action Plan. At the meeting, we had a useful discussion, led by Lord Haskins on the Better Regulation Task Force report 'Environmental Regulations and Farmers'. We will now consider how to build on this to reduce unnecessary burdens on farming while giving proper protection to the environment.

"We have also been considering new actions to drive forward the strategy. Following discussions with the industry I am delighted to announce three new Government/industry Task Forces to tackle key issues of concern and make recommendations to me by the end of March.

"An Inputs Task Force will examine both the costs and efficiency of use of a wide range of inputs into the UK farming industry and make recommendations for action.

"A Milk Task Force will take forward the recent work of the Food Chain Group and seek to identify scope for greater efficiencies within the milk and dairy supply chain in England. This work will be overseen by Joyce Quin.

"A Hills Task Force will look at ways Government can help English hill farmers to develop sustainable business enterprises that contribute to the upland rural economy and environment.

"I will announce further details of each Task Force shortly."