Ahead of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's long-awaited Autumn Statement on Thursday 17 November, Thérèse Coffey and her team will also face Defra questions from backbench MPs, with questions ranging from plans to increase food production to steps to support sustainable farming.
NFU President Minette Batters has reached out to Ms Coffey with an open letter sent on behalf of farmers and given a stark overview of the challenges faced by the sector, and the action needed on everything from domestic food production to energy support in order to allow businesses to plan ahead with confidence.
She also expressed her delight that the Defra Secretary of State was able to meet with the NFU's inaugural Community Farming Heros, who were hailed as champions for their regions and as exemplary of the ways in which "farmers go above and beyond, all while producing our food".
7 pledges from the PM
In her letter, Minette highlighted the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak's, key pledges made at the NFU's hustings event during the summer. These included commitments to:
- Establish a new food security target, including a statutory duty to monitor and report on domestic food production levels annually.
- Chair a UK-wide annual food security summit at 10 Downing Street, in partnership with the NFU and industry stakeholders.
- Introduce a new target for public sector organisations to buy 50% of their food locally.
- Use the powers in the Agriculture Act to ensure that supply chains are made fairer.
- Review planning rules to ensure that high-quality farmland is sufficiently protected.
- Make farmers a priority in all future trade deals…[and] build on existing support mechanisms to help farmers export to the world’s emerging markets.
- Reintroduce the role of the UK Rural Advocate and increase representation of farmers at all levels of government.
Farmers are part of the solution
Minette concluded the letter by emphasising how "farming can offer solutions to many of the challenges we face as a nation, and while we are ambitious to deliver, that ambition must be matched with certainty about the future."
Read the letter in full: NFU President Minette Batters writes to the Defra Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey