Treasury must deliver for UK food and farming in Autumn Statement

18 November 2023

NFU President Minette Batters looking into the camera with her laptop in front

The NFU has written to the Chancellor ahead of the Autumn Statement calling for support to rebuild confidence and stability in the UK’s food and farming sector.

In the letter, NFU President Minette Batters highlighted the opportunity for the Treasury to enable the production of more quality British produce for markets at home and abroad, while also reducing food inflation and stimulating green economic growth.

Matched with the NFU’s asks for Defra to set targets for homegrown food production alongside its environmental targets, the Treasury’s adoption of the fiscal policies outlined below would provide a much-needed boost to the UK’s food security.

The Autumn Statement comes as British farmers and growers continue to feel mounting pressure from soaring energy, fertiliser and other input costs, while changing government support schemes are causing a significant amount of financial uncertainty for many.

Mrs Batters said: "If we are to ensure a secure supply of sustainable, homegrown food production now and in the future, what British farming needs more than anything is investment.

“With farm input costs through the roof, interest rates rising and at least a 50% reduction in the current direct payments in 2023, farmers are facing incredibly challenging economic circumstances.

“As the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, it’s imperative British food and farming has sufficient funding for the capital investments that are needed – whether that’s investing in the environment, energy efficiency or productivity. Because farmers and growers want to do more for sustainable food production and the environment, but we can’t do either without profitable businesses.

“At this year’s Autumn Statement, the Chancellor could really inject some much-needed stability and confidence into the UK’s food and farming sector. As well as delivering short-term certainty, the NFU’s asks will also help build the foundation for a long-term farming framework, incorporating both public and private finance, to deliver the country’s environmental and food security needs.”

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Some of the NFU’s asks of the Treasury include:

  • To review long-term energy contracts in the commercial sector and improve transparency in the market.
  • To provide clarity over Agricultural Property Relief and the tax treatment of agricultural land entered into environmental schemes.
  • To lead a cross-government taskforce to ensure that emerging environmental markets in the UK are well regulated and fit for purpose.
  • To support environmentally-friendly farming by expanding income streams to fund the Slurry Infrastructure Grant.
  • To introduce enhanced capital allowances to incentivise investments in low-carbon technology and infrastructure.
  • To extend the Rural England Prosperity Fund which will enable farm businesses to diversify and build resilience.

Farming is the bedrock of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, food and drink, which contributes more than £120 billion to the national economy and provides 4 million jobs.