NFU at party conferences: British food and farming must be a priority

02 October 2023

NFU party conference stand, including a gator utility vehicle, a glasshouse, hedges and a Back British Farming sign

The NFU's 2023 party conference stand, featuring a gator utility vehicle, a glasshouse and hedges.

At this year’s party conferences, the NFU is showcasing why British food and farming needs to be a priority for all political parties ahead of the general election.

The NFU will once again have a prominent presence at both the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester and the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool. Its interactive stand will include a gator utility vehicle, a glasshouse to demonstrate the importance of growth in the horticulture sector, and a typical British landscape featuring sheep, trees, hedges and wildflower borders to reflect the work farmers do to care for the environment.

Delegates will also have the opportunity to pledge their commitment to championing British farming.

The party conferences come against the backdrop of years of uncertainty in the farming sector, as soaring production costs, global market instability caused by the ongoing war in Ukraine, extreme bouts of weather and delays to farm payments have all put pressure on homegrown food production.

NFU President Minette Batters said: “It’s more important than ever for political parties to back British food and farming.

“The nation’s food security has rarely been more prominent than in the past few years, and with the challenges we’ve faced it’s clear that we need to reassess how we value food and farming. Let’s not forget, this is a sector which forms the backbone of our rural communities, our much-loved countryside and our food and drink industry, which is worth more than £100 billion to the national economy and employs four million people.

“Party conferences are a chance for the NFU to showcase all that British farming delivers, but also for MPs, Peers, councillors and party members to show their support for a sector which gives so much to the nation.

“What we do is important to every single person who eats food. With a general election fast approaching, all parties need to carefully consider the long-term future of farming and how they will help boost homegrown food production. Because British food cannot fail.”

The NFU is also hosting fringe events at the Conservative and Labour Party Conferences.

The panel events will ask the question: What is the Party’s long-term plan for British agriculture?

The Conservative fringe event takes place on Monday 2 October. The panel will consist of:

  • Minette Batters – NFU President
  • Dr Therese Coffey MP – Defra Secretary of State
  • Tim J Smith CBE – Chair of the Food and Drink Sector Council 
  • Kate McCann – Times Radio Political Editor (chairing)

The Labour fringe event takes place on Monday 9 October. The panel will consist of:

  • Tom Bradshaw – NFU Deputy President
  • Steve Reed MP – Shadow Defra Secretary of State
  • Tim J Smith CBE – Chair of the Food and Drink Sector Council 
  • Will Hutton – Observer columnist (chairing)

The NFU is asking political parties to include the below policies in their upcoming manifestos:

  1. Establish a new food security index and target, including a statutory duty to monitor and report on domestic food production levels annually.
  2. Clear commitment to a budget that underpins sustainable domestic food production, delivers for the environment and supports all land tenures.
  3. A smooth and seamless transition to new support schemes that are open to all farmers and growers, less bureaucratic and ensure profitable long-term food-producing businesses.
  4. Ensure every new policy or regulation includes a ‘food impact assessment test’.
  5. Produce an enhanced policy-focused government food security report annually that looks beyond food supply and supermarket shelves to assess the short-, medium- and long-term viability of the food sector.
  6. Increase the powers and resource of the Groceries Code Adjudicator and maintain a commitment to keep it independent of the Competition and Markets Authority.
  7. Identify opportunities to increase our market share of foods we can produce sustainably, including a commitment to source 50% of food into the public sector from British farms.
  8. Hold an annual food summit at No10 to ensure food security remains high on the political agenda.
  9. Make changes to the planning system to ensure permitted development for infrastructure including glasshouses, reservoirs and slurry stores for the purposes of growing and processing fruit, vegetables, crops and livestock.
  10. Boost a range of incentives to reduce agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, by driving productivity, improving energy efficiency, and reducing the impact of inputs like feed, fertiliser and fuel, while producing more climate-friendly food and increasing green energy use.
  11. Reward for farmers for maintaining, protecting and enhancing our natural environment so everyone can experience the mental health benefits of access to our beautiful countryside.
  12. Responsible management of public access to the countryside so it can be enjoyed by everyone while recognising that much of it is an active working environment.