NFU urges new Defra Secretary to back British farming

Theresa Villiers, Defra Secretary of State

New Defra Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has visited NFU President Minette Batters' farm in Wiltshire, where they discussed the NFU's policy priorities for the new government.

Mrs Batters wrote to Ms Villiers following her appointment to the position, inviting her on farm and urging her to commit to a high-level commission to avoid British food production standards being undermined in the pursuit of post-Brexit trade deals.

The NFU's letter underlined the importance of leaving the EU in a smooth and orderly manner, and free and frictionless trade with the EU, and set out five immediate policy priorities for Defra.

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Mrs Batters said:

“British farming is proud to produce some of the highest quality food in the world. I look forward to working with the new Secretary of State to showcase the incredibly high standards to which British farmers deliver food for the nation, alongside caring for our animals and the countryside. [I invited] Ms Villiers to join me on my farm so she can see first-hand the work that goes in to producing the country’s food and its potential for the future.

“When it comes to her political priorities, safeguarding Britain’s food producers and our domestic food supply has never been more important. Leaving the EU, our closest neighbours and trading partners, in a smooth and orderly way is vital to allow farm businesses to have a viable and sustainable future – continuing to produce food to some of the highest global standards while protecting and maintaining our iconic British landscape."

“That’s why we urge the new Secretary of State to follow up on the promise of her predecessor and commit to a high-level commission to avoid British food production standards being undermined in the pursuit of post-Brexit trade deals.”

In the letter sent to Ms Villiers, the NFU has highlighted five immediate policy priorities for Defra, as follows:

  • A comprehensive impact assessment of the potential impacts of Brexit on the farming sector.
  • A fully developed and reinvigorated policy on improving productivity in agriculture.
  • A Trade and Standards Commission to be established to ensure our high standards of production are not undermined by our future trade policy.
  • A food-focused agricultural policy that rewards farmers fairly for the delivery of public goods.
  • Measures to strengthen farmers’ position in the supply chain including a market review.

Mrs Batters said:

“British farming is the backbone of the UK's largest manufacturing sector, food and drink, contributing more than £120 billion to the economy and employing over four million people.

“Government must develop an agricultural policy that encourages productive farming, allows farmers to continue to produce safe, traceable and affordable food for everyone and be custodians of the countryside. We need policies in place that allow farming businesses to innovate, support investment in new technologies to help farmers in the fight against climate change, and allow farms access to a competent and reliable workforce."

“As an industry we are ready and able to tackle the challenges ahead as well as making the most of new opportunities. The support of the new Secretary of State will be instrumental and we need her to back British farming like never before.

“I would also like to thank Michael Gove for his hard work and dedication to farming and agriculture over the past two years. He has recognised the difficult challenges facing the farming sector and the enormous potential we have to feed the nation. I hope the new Secretary of State will maintain the same progressive and energetic approach.”

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