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The Archbishop of Canterbury has paid tribute the work done by farmers for the UK’s wellbeing, environment and economy – and for feeding the... Archbishop of Canterbury pays tribute to farmers

The Archbishop of Canterbury has paid tribute the work done by farmers for the UK’s wellbeing, environment and economy – and for feeding the nation.

Speaking in the run-up to Christmas, Justin Welby said the coronavirus pandemic had reminded people that farmers were key workers. For society to flourish, it was vital to support farmers – and rural communities and parishes, he said.

Mr Welby made the comments to more than 100 invited guests as he delivered the annual NFU Henry Plumb lecture last month in London. The lecture is named in honour of Lord Plumb, who served as NFU president from 1970 to 1978.

As well as producing affordable and nutritious food, farmers had a key role to play in supporting rural communities, said Mr Welby. In return, people could support farmers by eating locally and seasonally, he suggested.

Food standards

The archbishop also discussed the role of the church in supporting rural communities. There was a need to educate people about food and farming he suggested – and for more food served in schools to be British-sourced.

On food standards and trade, Mr Welby said: “Our farming communities can lead the way on food standards, animal welfare, trade and exports that make people’s lives better and more prosperous around the world.”

Highlighting the opportunity to increase exports of British food and drink, the archbishop said the farming community had a unique opportunity to be at the heart of building relationships overseas.

“Making the most of the overseas market post-Brexit is crucial. We need to get our trade deals right to protect the world-class British standards of farming – bad deals risk exporting environmental and animal welfare harms and destroying farmers livelihoods.

The government needed to partner with farmers to build global ambition and increase the British food brand identity globally, said Mr Welby. British farming could become a global leader in sustainable, climate-friendly, high standard food production.

“Now is the time to harness these challenges, from the local to the global level, and transform them into opportunities. We can put down firm roots in values and communities, and those roots enable us to be resilient and flexible when any storms come.”

Strong roots would help farmers be ambitious and innovative. “That way we can ensure we fulfil our potential and flourish together, as the farming industry cares for our wellbeing, our environment and our economy for many years to come.”

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