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Brexit offers the government the opportunity to back British farming and improve the country’s food sustainability, the NFU said at the British Science Festival.

NFU deputy president Minette Batters stressed the important role British farmers can play in securing our domestic food supply for the future in a debate on food sustainability.

As an industry that provides the raw ingredients for the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, food and drink, maintains 70% of the nation’s landscape and provides jobs for 3.8 million people, it can play a vital role post-Brexit.

Figures show that Britain currently produces 60% of its own food and this figure is in long-term decline.

Mrs Batters said: “The role of food in this country has long been overlooked by successive governments and it is time that we recognise its importance to the nation and its people, particularly as we move towards Brexit.

“Farming underpins much of the nation including the food and drink sector, rural communities and the countryside. It is vital that this contribution is recognised in Brexit negotiations.

“The NFU is keen for the farming sector to explore the benefits of trade but we can take advantage of the fantastic skills in the farming sector and build on those. A policy of continuously buying in food that we can produce within our own shores risks undermining the work of British farmers.

“We are calling on the government to deliver policies that will ensure that Britain retains its ability to be more self-sufficient, support home-grown food and ensure that we have profitable, productive and progressive farm businesses for the future.

“However, farmers can be part of the solution for a wide-range of issues beyond food including caring for the environment, fighting climate change and embracing green energy.”