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Kendall's call to Government in graduation speech

Posted 24 September 2012

"The fact that the Harper Adams graduate employment rate is more than 98 per cent tells me there is real relevance - what a wide range of jobs we can deliver for the United Kingdom at this moment in time!"

Peter Kendall, Doctor of Science, honoris causa

The UK Government needs to recognise agriculture as an exciting, innovative competitive industry, critical to all the big challenges facing the world

Those were the words of National Farmers' Union President Peter Kendall as he became an honorary Doctor of Science at Harper Adams University College's graduation ceremony. Addressing more than 600 new graduates, staff and guests, Mr Kendall said: "To see so many enthusiastic young people in this room about to go out into careers in agriculture is really very special. And I want to thank you for the great honour you have bestowed upon me.

"The NFU is an organisation that stands up for the industry. We are trying to make a difference so that people can build exciting, innovative businesses for the future. I hope that some of the recognition you have bestowed upon me is a reflection of the incredible hard work that the staff of the NFU do on behalf of British agriculture. But, actually, fighting the negative battles isn't the big win for me - it is fighting the negative image of British agriculture.

"I was fortunate only last week to go and have lunch with the Prime Minister in 10 Downing Street. He turned to me and said: "How are we going to get more young people into the agricultural sector as a whole?" I told him that, actually, we are already getting some really great people coming into farming.

"We need politicians, though, to stop thinking of this industry as grumpy old men leaning on a five-bar gate, chewing straw, telling everybody how hard our lot is. We should reflect on the fantastic landscape, think of the fantastic products that are being developed across British agriculture, the food we produce, how we produce it, sustainability and renewable energy: all the elements that make an exciting, modern industry.  The fact that the Harper Adams graduate employment rate is more than 98 per cent tells me there is real relevance - what a wide range of jobs we can deliver for the United Kingdom at this moment in time!

"I challenged the Prime Minister over this: every time there are a thousand jobs created in the car industry, they make a big hullaballoo about it. Between 2010 and 2011, we created 10,000 jobs in agriculture and yet I have never yet heard a Minister in Government champion what British agriculture is doing: creating jobs, employment and wealth. So, trying to change the perception of this industry to one that is exciting, innovative and competitive for the future is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

"…When the Chief Government Scientist says we have a food crisis and we need to act now to have enough food in 2025, I don't want to be alarmist. I think we can do this. I think the world will feed itself and I think it will produce renewable energy at the same time. But it will be because of the application of great people skills and investment in science and technology.

"This is the thought I left the Prime Minister with: I want us to be seen by politicians as an exciting, innovative, competitive industry; critical to all the big challenges facing the world. And an exciting career choice for young people - I wish you all the very best in your chosen careers."

Mr Kendall, who farms in Eyeworth, Bedfordshire, was one of four people awarded honorary doctorates or fellowships of the University College. For more information, see news article: Harper Adams celebrates graduation.

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