In June, the NFU wrote to all Conservative Party leadership candidates, urging them to commit to delivering a positive future for British food production and to work with farmers to seize the opportunities that lie ahead.
In the open letter, NFU President Minette Batters highlighted three key policy areas where a future Prime Minister can work with farmers to future-proof British farming. These key asks are for:
- A Brexit that creates the right conditions for British farming to thrive, including as free and frictionless trade in agri-food goods as possible and an immigration system that maintains access to a seasonal and permanent workforce.
- An agricultural policy which supports farmers as food producers and acknowledges the importance of domestic food production.
- A government that works with British farmers to support our environment, countryside and rural communities.
Mrs Batters also highlighted the importance of avoiding a no-deal Brexit, given the considerable economic damage it would entail for Britain’s food and farming sectors, the wider economy and the British public.
A letter has also been sent to the candidates for the Liberal Democrat leadership reiterating the role they can play in supporting a bright future for British food and farming, such as through the Agriculture Bill’s passage through Parliament.
In the letter to Conservative party leadership candidates, Mrs Batters wrote:
“Farming is now at a crossroads. As the industry potentially most affected by the decision to leave the European Union, the next Prime Minister has a unique opportunity and responsibility to shape the future of British farming, food production and the countryside we all value so highly.
“Get it right and the rewards can be huge, get it wrong and we could see the decimation of Britain’s ability to feed itself and to care for our iconic landscapes. For this reason, the next Prime Minister must commit to doing everything in their power to avoid a hugely damaging no-deal Brexit, given the enormous economic damage this would entail for our food and farming sectors, the wider economy and the people of the UK."
“Of course, avoiding no deal and achieving the right outcome from Brexit remains a huge priority for farm businesses, but we also want to work with the next Prime Minister and their government on a broader range of issues, to seize the opportunities the future holds.
“As a candidate in the Conservative leadership election, I am asking you to rise to these challenges and pledge your support for farming and commit to a positive future for domestic food production and the high standards associated with it.”
Read the response received from leadership candidate Boris Johnson:
Thank you for your letter.
You raise several important points which I would like to take in turn.
We need a Brexit that creates the right conditions for British farming to thrive. This means ensuring as free and frictionless trade in agri-food goods as possible with our principal EU market, working towards a regulator system that is designed for the specific needs of UK farm practice, developing an immigration system that maintains access to the seasonal and permanent workforce required by UK growers, farmers and the wider food chain, and ensuring our international trade respects, and doesn’t undermine, our own high domestic production standards.
“The UK farming sector has a number of concerns that I am committed to addressing.
“I will be aiming to ensure that we have a trade deal that minimises friction on the cross-border transfer of goods, while ensuring that our border is secure and protects UK citizens. I am aware of the disruption that delays will have, and will be working to minimise the potential for delays. I will be happy to discuss specific concerns that the NFU have as we strike that deal.
“We need an Australian-style points-based system, and levels of immigration should reflect the particular needs of the sectors concerned. I have always been in favour of talented people being able to come to this country and make their lives here.”
Secondly, we must invest in sustainable growth through a future agricultural policy which supports farmers as food producers and acknowledges the strategic importance of domestic production in guaranteeing our food security, whilst also improving productivity, resilience and stability in the sector. We have an opportunity to create a more transparent and open food supply chain, one which continues to uphold and enhance standards and safety for consumers at home and abroad.
“Taking back control of our agriculture policy gives us a unique opportunity to make real improvements in domestic production. The Agriculture Bill that is currently before Parliament makes a number of beneficial improvements, but I am keen to work with the NFU to look at what other changes we can introduce to boost standards, enhance consumer safety and encourage domestic production.”
We need a government which is willing to work with British farmers to support our environment, countryside and rural communities. Farming is already making great progress in this area and we stand ready to make a full contribution to the UK becoming net zero by 2050; the NFU has a commitment for British farming to do so by 2040. Our farmers are up for this challenge which will also need clear and ambitious government commitment to more productive and efficient farming, thorough investment in better, more sustainable infrastructure and technology. We also need a new focus on the blight of rural crime and help in addressing the challenges of social exclusion and mental health in agriculture.
“I applaud the great work that UK agriculture has made in reaching net zero. If I am fortunate enough to be elected leader, I would be happy to discuss specific proposals with the NFU to help realise this worthy goal as soon as possible. I have made clear that I am committed to investing in areas that have been left behind – especially rural areas – and am determined to give the police the resources and powers that they need to crack down on crime all over the country.”
The Rt Hon. Boris Johnson MP
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