Whatever suggestions are made by the Commission on the Future of Farming and Food when it reports to government, its inquiry must tackle the tricky subject of how to improve communications between the food chain's different stakeholders. Think about it. The government knows little, and cares even less, about the food chain ­ except to realise it is a bothersome sector with problems for which Blair now knows there are no easy solutions. At the same time, farmers are being urged to become more "customer facing", yet they remain largely ignorant of what that means or entails ­ believing only that they will suffer as a consequence. Consumers, meanwhile, want food that is convenient, healthy, safe and, most of all, cheap; many could not give a toss whether it's from England or Timbuktu. And my, ahem, colleagues in the national press are happy to feed off prejudice and fear in their pursuit of the next food scare story. None of which is new. But it was an important theme in the presentations to Sir Don Curry and his colleagues by retailers and manufacturers at the first open meeting hosted by the Commission as part of its process of gathering evidence. What really struck me as I sat there listening to the submissions was the fact that retailers and manufacturers have been saying all of this for years. And despite everything that has been done recently to unify the food chain, very little has really changed. The issues faced by the food chain are highly complex and will only be resolved through meaningful dialogue between stakeholders. But that will only be possible when there is much more trust along the entire chain. That's the challenge for us all ­ farmers, processors, retailers, consumers and politicians ­ going forward. Unless we truly rebuild trust there can be no communication; without communication there will be no effective debate; without debate there will be no practical solutions; and without real solutions to very real problems there will no longer be a viable farming sector in this country. Julian Hunt, Deputy Editor {{OPINION }}