GE24: Farming for Britain’s food

14 June 2024

British food and farming cannot be taken for granted. Our general election manifesto – Farming for Britain’s Future – calls on the next government to help create the right environment for growing UK food production while maintaining and enhancing the British countryside.

British farmers and growers have so much to offer to the nation, including providing high quality, affordable, climate friendly food. In an increasingly volatile world, food production is vital to our nation’s health, wellbeing and security.

Put simply, farming cannot fail.

Food is central to all our lives

For farmers and growers across the country, it is their passion and the reason they work every day, in all weathers, to ensure we can all enjoy healthy, nutritious, climate- friendly food produced to world-leading environmental and animal welfare standards.

Food production is critical to the security of the country and the health and wellbeing of the population.

Farmers and growers want to, and can, produce more of the food that our climate and landscape are particularly suited to.

But government needs to work with us so we can maximise our potential.

It’s a win-win for everyone:

  • the public get more of the British food they know and love;
  • farmers and growers have profitable, sustainable businesses built for the long-term and can continue to be the custodians of our countryside; and,
  • the government has a safe and secure supply of the food we can produce in an increasingly volatile and uncertain world.

What the public think

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91% think that farmers are important to ensuring supermarket shelves are stocked with food.

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71% say farmers don't get enough credit for keeping food on our shelves.

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84% think food production targets are either as important or more important than environmental targets for farming.

Food security is a crucial part of our national infrastructure

This was made clear by former MI5 head Baroness Manningham-Buller when she gave the 2022 Henry Plumb Lecture.

Ensuring our long-term food security is vital.

To do this we need government to look beyond immediate indicators like the state of our supermarkets’ shelves and regularly assess the short, medium and long-term health of the entire food sector.

This will allow emerging trends to be spotted early on and steps to be taken to deal with potential issues before they become a significant problem.

Fairness in the supply chain is vital

Farmers and growers cannot be expected to continue shouldering a disproportionate amount of the cost risk while the amount they receive for the food they produce is continually squeezed.

The Groceries Code Adjudicator plays a pivotal role in holding retailers to account and allowing farmers and growers to highlight breaches of the Groceries Supply Code of Practice without fear of repercussion. Its role should be expanded.

UK’s self-sufficiency

At the moment, we produce around 60% of the food we eat.

The National Food Strategy suggests an ambition to grow UK food production – and we can do it while maintaining and enhancing our iconic countryside.

The next government can help create the right environment for this by committing to making sure more British food is used across the public sector.

Promoting and driving local, seasonal and fresh food purchasing, by serving more local British food in our hospitals and our schools, would be a huge vote of support for British food and farming.

Food impact assessment

Joined-up government thinking is also crucial to ensuring farmers and growers can produce food to the best of their ability and are not undermined by decisions made in isolation without taking into account the bigger picture.

That’s why we need the next government to commit to ensuring that any new regulations and policies it introduces are assessed to make sure they don’t make food production more difficult or leave farmers and growers at a competitive disadvantage.

British food is world leading. By working together we can ensure it remains the envy of the world and our farmers and growers have a resilient, profitable and sustainable future.

NFU asks

1. Clear commitment to a budget that underpins sustainable domestic food production, delivers for the environment and supports all land tenures.

2. FOOD SECURITY: Establish a new food security index and target, including a statutory duty to monitor and report on domestic food production levels each year and produce an enhanced policy-focused government food security report annually that assesses the short, medium and long-term viability of the food sector.

3. FOOD IMPACT ASSESSMENT: Ensure all new policies and regulations that impact agricultural and horticultural businesses undergo a food security impact assessment.

4. ENVIRONMENTAL SCHEMES: A smooth and seamless transition to new environmental schemes that are open to all farmers and growers, less bureaucratic and ensure profitable long-term food-producing businesses.

5. PUBLIC PROCUREMENT: 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.

6. FOOD SECURITY: Hold an annual food summit at No. 10 to ensure food security remains high on the political agenda.

7. FAIR SUPPLY CHAIN: Establish minimum standards to promote a fair and functioning supply chain and provide arbitration or oversight to uphold them, as well as increasing the powers and resource of the Groceries Code Adjudicator.

This page was first published on 02 June 2024. It was updated on 14 June 2024.