Springtime and the PM's thoughts turn to farming. Almost two years to the day after Tony Blair's millennium farming summit,' food chain leaders were invited back to Number 10 with the government this time promising "action and delivery" to tackle the problems facing the industry. Defra secretary of state Margaret Beckett reeled off an impressive list of "concrete measures" to be implemented from the Curry report after the meeting. However, cynics observed the measures in question were almost exclusively confined to those requiring little or no government cash. Indeed, the day after Stephen Byers committed £300m of taxpayers' money to get Railtrack out of administration, Beckett admitted she was unable to ringfence more than an initial £6.8m to get British food and farming back on its feet. Meanwhile, her audience were left wondering whether to feel reassured that the Curry report would not be left to gather dust, or whether there was any point in Defra holding a conference when it could not comment on its level of commitment ahead of the June spending review. As one executive who attended the Downing Street meeting put it: "At the end of the day, it's all about money, not PR slogans. So we must now wait until the autumn for really firm news." Those hoping it was merely a question of timing were not cheered by Beckett's emphasis that a "lot that needs to be done is not for government alone". However, despite the cynicism, the seminar was broadly welcomed by the industry as an important first step. A BRC spokesman said: "The very fact Tony Blair called this seminar shows that the government is taking this seriously. "But there will be other opportunities to talk. This is an ongoing process, so you can hardly accuse the government of failing to deliver at this stage. This seminar is just a point on the curve." FDF president Peter Blackburn said the session was a "valuable gathering of key stakeholders". Soil Association director Patrick Holden said he was encouraged by the PM's grasp of the issues: "Tony Blair realises the solutions are in the hands of the consuming public. If they are able to understand and trust products that are more sustainably produced, they would be prepared to pay more." NFU president Ben Gill welcomed moves to establish an English Collaborative Board to encourage co-operation between producers to increase their clout in the marketplace ­ a key recommendation of the Curry report. He added: "Farmers and the NFU fully accept that the survival of farming is largely in their own hands. We are committed to moving the commission's conclusions forward. But it also requires meaningful commitment and implementation from government." All sides welcomed the promise of cash to kickstart the Red Meat Industry Forum's plans and there was widespread support for the new Food Chain Centre facilitated by IGD ­ although this has been allocated just £300,000 from the Treasury, with the likelihood of more cash depending on "EU state aid rules". The government is now embarking on a period of "engagement" with key stakeholders to hammer out how to turn its recommendations into practical measures. As part of the engagement process, interested parties will be invited to attend eight regional seminars co-ordinated by food minister Lord Whitty in the coming months. A hefty tome entitled Sustainable Food and Farming: Working Together, will also be mailed out this week asking for further comments on how to implement the report. Feedback from this will inform the government's "strategy for sustainable food and farming in England" ­ an action plan to be launched in the autumn when it is clear exactly how much money there is to play with. In the meantime, everyone is waiting to see if Beckett's "constructive and useful" conversations with the PM at Number 10 this week will translate into hard cash from Number 11. {{NEWS }}