NFU has first meeting with new Defra Secretary

08 July 2024

The NFU was first through the doors to secure a meeting with the new Defra Secretary of State Steve Reed, just 72 hours after the Prime Minister named his cabinet.

In the face-to-face meeting in Westminster, NFU President Tom Bradshaw congratulated the Secretary of State on his appointment and said he looked forward to them working together to ensure Britain has a thriving food and farming sector.

Tom said: “I would like to congratulate Steve Reed on his appointment as Defra Secretary at what is a crucial moment for British agriculture.

“I look forward to building on our strong engagement to date with Labour ministers to discuss essential policy solutions on key issues for our members. Critically, this will include securing the investment required to deliver for food security and the legislated environmental targets, as well as bovine TB, seasonal workers and import controls.”

Tom said it was “fantastic” to be able to represent the NFU’s members in the meeting adding that Mr Reed “recognised we are running farm businesses and it’s crucial that they are profitable”.

“He also really valued the relationship he’s built up with the NFU and the meetings we’ve helped organise for all candidates during this election campaign – it really has got us off to an excellent start,” Tom added.

Delivering for members on the ground

Topics high on the agenda included reforms required around planning policy to enable investment in the infrastructure on farm that will mitigate environmental risk, drive productivity and deliver for food security which is a key priority for the Secretary of State.

Tom and Mr Reed were also joined by newly appointed Farming Minister Daniel Zeichner who previously shadowed the role when Labour was in opposition.

“We've known Daniel for several years now and have built up a really good relationship,” Tom noted.

“We look forward to working with all of the team in Defra to deliver for you, our members on the ground, and for food security for the public.”

I look forward to building on our strong engagement to date with Labour ministers to discuss essential policy solutions on key issues for our members.”

NFU President Tom Bradshaw

Modelling by the fully independent Andersons Centre, commissioned by the NFU, shows that an annual agriculture budget of around £4 billion is needed for England. Respecting the nature of devolved government, the NFU estimates this would translate to a UK-wide budget of around £5.6 billion.

As well as the budget needed for farming, other urgent issues discussed today included ensuring the flood recovery fund delivers for affected farmers, early payment of de-linked BPS to aid essential cash-flow on farms, and improving the offer to farmers for SFI and wider environmental schemes to make sure there is a seamless transition that genuinely delivers for food production and the environment.

Two key areas are stocking densities in the uplands and rotational options that have become fixed options as well as payment rates within the legacy HLS schemes.

Steve Reed, Tom Bradshaw, Scott Pepe and Daniel Zeichner

Photograph: Defra. L-R Defra Secretary Steve Reed, NFU President Tom Bradshaw, NFU head of external affairs Scott Pepe and Farming Minister Daniel Zeichner.

Government’s plans for agriculture

Writing on X, formerly Twitter, Mr Reed said “It is the privilege of my life to lead this department and serve our great country”, adding that “the work starts now”.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Reed said he was “delighted” to meet with Tom and “discuss the government’s plans to give farmers their future back”.

“Confidence amongst farmers is at record low. It is time for change,” he said.

“The government will offer a new deal for farmers to boost rural economic growth and strengthen Britain’s food security. We will cut energy bills by switching on GB Energy, protect farmers from being undercut in trade deals and use the government’s own purchasing power to back British produce.

“We are committed to supporting farmers and rural communities, and I look forward to working closely with Tom and the NFU throughout this Parliament.”

Next steps

The meeting came after the NFU met 378 and contacted 906 parliamentary candidates during the six-week general election campaign period, where we highlighted key issues from our manifesto, published back in December 2023.

The NFU has been preparing to represent its members with a new government as soon as it was elected.

Our next actions will be:

  • NFU President Tom Bradshaw has written to the Prime Minister and the new Cabinet ministers. These letters will be delivered on their first day in role.
  • Hand delivered invites to all MPs in England and Wales to the NFU Summer Reception on 18 July will arrive with them in their House of Commons office on their first day.
  • NFU county advisers will be writing to both successful and unsuccessful candidates to ensure their continued backing of the British farming industry and meeting with new MPs on farm over the remainder of the summer.

Who is Steve Reed?

Mr Reed previously served as the Labour Party’s Shadow Minister for Defra when in opposition. He was first elected as the MP for Streatham and Croydon North, previously Croydon North, in 2012.

He has also been the Labour Party’s spokesperson for justice and communities and local government before then.

Before entering parliament, Mr Reed was the leader of Lambeth Council for more than six years. In 2013, he received an OBE from Her Majesty the Queen for services to local government.

In 2018, he became the first Labour MP in 22 years to pass a major new act of parliament, Seni’s Law, from opposition. Seni’s Law protects people with mental ill health from violent restraint and tackle deaths in custody.

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

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