Tim Lang outlines what should be on the agenda for the incoming Defra chief

Dear Secretary of State, your in-box is full from people desperate to meet you. My advice is to pause. The horizons of politics are famously short but food's are large.

In the election your party, like others, went quiet on food. Debate centred on the economy, leaders and immigration. One had to dig to find anything on food a little on GM, labelling, hospital food. Yet huge issues face us. Food requires cross-government liaison. You cannot do this on your own. Call a meeting of the Cabinet Domestic Affairs (Food) sub-committee early. I suggest this agenda.

Firstly, you should start thinking hard about how to increase UK food production sustainably. Public sector squeeze will mean less money for food imports. Currency crises add to uncertainty.

The chief scientist reports in the autumn. Meanwhile Defra should scope options for increasing investment and output. Don't narrow this down to being pro or anti-GM. The key is total supply chain sustainability at all costs.

Secondly, champion not just a new direction for UK food but delivery mechanisms. Don't ignore the thinking already done in and around government and devolved administrations. But think local delivery. Who, what, when? Time is tight.

Thirdly, tell it to consumers. Engage. Changing diet is always tricky and threatening.

Fourthly, the country is already starkly divided but this is likely to worsen with cuts. Unemployment, poverty and inequalities will rise. Food is the flexible budget item. Poor people eat worse, paying less, but proportionately more. Worse diets lead to worse health, which costs. Don't blame them. Help.

Fifthly, keep going on the schools front. Nutrient standards only began in 2008 for primary and 2009 in secondary and special schools. Green shoots of improvement are only now appearing. Nurture them. Keep going, too, on promoting sustainable public sector procurement.

Sixthly, despite the phoney war over Ofcom and children's advertising, it's now agreed there was a problem. Don't deny that and roll things back, even if you don't know what to do about it. Beyond the headlines, there are good things happening, notably in promoting breastfeeding and baby-friendly hospitals and in proposed standards for better food in early years settings.

Finally, UK food employs 3.2 million yet a skills crisis looms. Set up a review and invest in training.

Tim Lang is professor of food policy at City University t.lang@city.ac.uk.