Food and farming took centre stage at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton on Monday evening.
There was standing room only as over 100 conference delegates and NFU members gathered to hear from Labour’s spokesperson on environment, food and rural affairs Sue Hayman. Ms Hayman was joined on the panel by NFU Vice President Guy Smith, Food and Drink Federation Director General Ian Wright, and Observer columnist and food writer Jay Rayner. The event was chaired by Julia Glotz, Managing Editor of The Grocer.
Brexit was obviously top of the agenda but much of the discussion centred around the commitments made by the Labour party in this year’s General Election manifesto. Sue Hayman again reiterated the party’s support for extending the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator – very much a part of the NFU’s lobbying activity. She also confirmed a Labour government would make country of origin labelling clearer, tackling a key point raised by NFU Cymru Deputy President John Davies.
Questions also came from the floor on international trade, future domestic agricultural support and the role of UK retailers. Sue argued that retailers needed to take their responsibilities seriously – issues like fake farms undermined the credibility of British farming. Jay Rayner challenged the Labour party to think about how it could help plug the productivity gap and redress the decline in self-sufficiency.
Sue concluded the discussion but confirming her intention to work closely with the NFU. Having only been appointed to the role earlier this year, Sue wanted to hear directly from NFU members on their ideas for a vision for the future of UK agriculture. It was over to Guy Smith to have the last word, in summing up he said: “If you can’t feed a country, you haven’t got a country.”