New government is ‘reset moment’ for British agriculture

05 July 2024

House of Parliament and a field of cows

Photograph: iStock

The NFU looks forward to a new partnership with Sir Keir Starmer’s mission-led government, to rebuild confidence in the agriculture industry.

The votes are in and work now begins for the NFU to engage with the new Labour government to help deliver its missions to boost the nation’s food security, contribute to economic growth and drive environmental benefits.

In the run-up to polling day, we reached out to 904 prospective candidates, while 378 potential MPs were met face to face or out on farm.

With hundreds of new MPs now in office, the NFU is poised to put forward farming’s priorities at our MP reception on 18 July.

Responding to the news, NFU President Tom Bradshaw called it a “reset moment” for British agriculture as the NFU looks to work with the new government “to drive our sector forward and grow”.

Food security is national security

Tom added: “Labour’s manifesto recognised that food security is national security, but it is business confidence which forms the foundation of this.

“With British farmers and growers ambitious for the future, what they – and the public – need are practical policies that revitalise farm business confidence and deliver on our shared mission of food security.

“In a cost-of-living crisis, our ability to provide affordable, climate-friendly and high-welfare food will be critical for families across the country, as well as underpinning the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, food and drink, and stimulating economic growth.”

The NFU will now look to build on its strong engagement with Labour ministers and discuss essential policy solutions on key issues for members.

Labour’s manifesto recognised that food security is national security, but it is business confidence which forms the foundation of this.”

NFU President Tom Bradshaw

Farm finances

Tom said the number one priority for the new Labour government must be to set an increased multi-year agriculture budget for the duration of the next parliament.

This is the catalyst to deliver on its food security and environmental ambitions.

“This is about investing in the future of British farming – in homegrown food, in the environment and in renewable energy,” Tom said.

Independent work from the Andersons Centre commissioned by the NFU has suggested an annual budget in England of around £4 billion is needed:

  • around £2.7 billion to meet the government’s environmental goals
  • £615 million for driving productivity
  • £720 million to support the economic stability of agricultural businesses

Respecting the nature of devolved government, we estimate this would translate to a UK-wide budget of around £5.6 billion.

This will allow a fair transition away from the old EU system, to one that delivers public good for public funds, gives farmers the confidence to invest, and makes the government’s aims around sustainable food production, food security, the environment and net zero possible.

Manifesto graphic - Division (002)

The new Secretary of State should also commit to a more transparent transition that ensures all stakeholders can share and support Defra’s plans.

This means Defra publishing its impact assessment for the transition, including for the uplands, sharing its annual budget plans and urgently reviewing ELMs (Environmental Land Management schemes) to ensure they are accessible to all tenures and sectors.

Ensuring environment land management schemes ‘work for farmers and nature’ is another pledge which the NFU President said “we will want to see actioned”.

In the past, the NFU has been reassured to hear the new Defra Secretary of State Steve Reed confirm the party had no plans to change inheritance tax including Agricultural Property Relief.

Procurement, trade and water pledges

Echoing a central NFU ask, the Labour manifesto pledged for half of all food purchased across the public sector to be locally produced. The NFU will press for legislation on this as soon as possible.

The capacity of the HSE Chemicals Regulation Division to provide prompt, scientifically robust risk-based plant protection product approvals will also be an issue raised early by the NFU.

The NFU was delighted that the Labour manifesto committed to a trade strategy that promotes the ‘highest standards of food production’, something we have long called for. We look forward to working with the government to develop this.

We are also clear that core production standards are desperately needed to give British farmers confidence that they will not be undercut by imported food produced to lower standards.

The Labour manifesto went some way towards this and the NFU will urge the new government to make a clear, immediate commitment.

The NFU shares the new government’s ambition to improve water quality and to mitigate the devastating impact of flooding. 

Availability of water for the irrigation of crops must also be prioritised.

Our sector’s increasing role in national flood resilience must be properly recognised, with commitments to compensate farmers for storing floodwater on their land, and adequate funding for the Environment Agency for essential maintenance and new capital projects.

Unlocking growth potential

Elsewhere, there are “various issues that need greater recognition if the sector is to unlock its potential for growth” Tom added, including:

  • A “fit for purpose” Seasonal Workers Scheme.
  • Effective import controls.
  • Supply chain fairness.
  • Investment in infrastructure.
  • Flexibility in planning.

“Our members will also want to see the new government’s commitment to food security by being alert to the risk and impact of disease, particularly bovine TB, as we work towards the government’s target to eradicate this terrible disease by 2038,” Tom said.

“With the latest science showing a 56% decline in TB outbreaks, continuing with an effective and comprehensive eradication plan, which is based on scientific evidence, is essential.”


“Working together on these immediate priorities is a win-win,” said Tom.

“The public will get more of the British food they know and love, farmers and growers will have the confidence to build profitable, sustainable, resilient businesses – supporting economic growth and environmental delivery – and this new government will help to secure a safe supply of homegrown food in an increasingly volatile and uncertain world.”

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