The overwhelming victory for the Conservative party has garnered a quick response from the industry. NFU President Minette Batters said: “The NFU will start working with the new government and parliament straight away to ensure all areas of Westminster and Whitehall understand and value the importance of British food and farming.
“During the election campaign, we spoke to candidates from all parties to reiterate to them the strategic importance of our industry to the nation; one that contributes £122 billion to the UK economy, delivering jobs for almost four million people and affordable food for the entire country. Many of those candidates are now MPs, so we will be continuing those conversations in Westminster and inviting them out on farm so they can see first-hand the high standards British farmers are proud of and the safe, traceable food systems British people value. We, of course, will be seeking meetings with Ministers as soon as possible.
“In our own election manifesto, we raised a number of crucial issues we need the new government to address now, to ensure British food production has a sustainable and ambitious future.
“Top of that list is Brexit. It’s imperative we secure a future trade deal with the EU that is as free and frictionless as possible, avoiding the damaging spectre of trading with our largest partner on WTO terms. Alongside this, our future trade policy mustn’t allow imports of food produced to standards that would be illegal to produce here.
“The UK could embark on its first trade negotiations for decades in just 50 days’ time – the government must set up a Trade and Standards Commission as a matter of urgency so that they can work with industry and stakeholders to ensure those negotiations do not allow the high standards which are the hallmark of UK farming to be undermined by imported food which would fail to meet our own domestic regulations and values surrounding animal welfare, environmental standards and traceability.
“From our ambitious vision for agriculture to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 to increasing our self-sufficiency by producing more high-quality, British food at home, British farmers are ready and able to tackle the challenges ahead as well as making the most of new opportunities.
“We live in a country that has some of the highest animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards in the world, all the while providing the British public with the third most affordable food on the planet, and at the same time maintaining and enhancing the iconic British landscape. That’s why the public trusts and supports British farmers.
“Britain needs the new government to back British farming like never before; to invest in domestic food production so we can increase our productivity, create more jobs and deliver more for the environment. Government needs to act to ensure guaranteed access to a skilled and competent workforce; develop a framework for a more competitive and sustainable farming industry; put in place a long-term food strategy; and place science at the heart of policy making. This will allow farming businesses to continue doing what they do best – provide safe, traceable and affordable food for the nation.”
Holly Story, farm business consultant at GSC Grays added: “Following the Conservative victory we expect that the Agriculture Bill, which stalled in 2019, will be resurrected. However the Bill contained very few concrete commitments and with a new cabinet there could yet be changes in direction.
“Under Michael Gove’s leadership of DEFRA, the mantra of ‘Public Money for Public Goods’ was front and centre in the discussion on future farming support, and it was reiterated again in the Conservative manifesto. There was also a new pledge for a £640 million Nature for Climate fund, which will drive action such as tree planting and peatland restoration to help the UK to reach its Net Zero by 2050 target.
“The previous government had timetabled the first reductions in Basic Payment Scheme to take effect in 2021, but there are growing calls from industry representatives for this to be pushed back given the delays to Brexit and the lack of progress on developing our post-Brexit agricultural policy. While the UK’s exit from the EU now seems set to move forward with more speed and confidence, there is still a long way to go before the new Environmental Land Management system is ready to be rolled out and critical trade deals will take many years to broker. The industry may yet have several more years of uncertainty before we reach a new ‘status quo’.”
The Tenant Farmers Association’s (TFA) National Chairman, James Gray, has written to the Prime Minister congratulating him on yesterday’s General Election win and to set out a list of priorities for his new Government for the food and farming industry.
Key areas to address are:
- To ensure that we are on the front foot in developing strong export markets for our farm produce both within the EU and, very importantly, further afield whilst protecting domestic consumers from food produced abroad to standards which would be illegal at home.
- Ensuring that we use our tariff policy to put us in the strongest position to support our domestic agricultural industry and protecting us from lower quality imports.
- Taking action to tackle market failures within retail and food service supply chains, thereby ensuring fair returns to primary producers.
- Developing future agricultural policy that focuses on supporting active farmers in raising productivity, meeting environmental and animal welfare goals and in tackling climate change.
- Ensuring access to the migrant labour we need within our primary production and processing sectors whilst we work together at encouraging more domestic labour into those sectors.
- Requiring public sector food procurement to prioritise food from British sources.
- Maintaining free and unfettered trade between and within the four UK countries.
- Bringing forward legislative and fiscal reforms tackling the short-term farm tenancy culture which pervades the landlord community.
“With new Agriculture, Trade and Environment Bills expected to be introduced to Parliament early in the New Year, TFA will be working to ensure that these priorities are taken forward,” said Mr Gray.