NFU24: Prime Minister addresses NFU Conference

20 February 2024

Rishi Sunak giving a speech at NFU Conference

For the first time since 2008 the Prime Minister addressed NFU Conference. Rishi Sunak opened his keynote speech by paying tribute to President Minette Batters and her ‘forceful’ representation of farmers during a tumultuous time.

He told farmers at Birmingham’s ICC “I’ve got your back” as he announced a package of support for rural communities and committed to “every penny” of the £2.4bn farming budget going to agriculture.

He announced that the government will open the largest ever grant offer for farmers in the coming financial year, expected to total £427m, including funding for technology and productivity schemes.

The Prime Minister said: “While the importance of farmers will never change – farming is going through its biggest change in a generation. And as farmers do so, this government will be by their side. They have been dealing with soaring global prices in things like fuel and fertiliser. So, we’ve been working hard to get inflation down – from 11.1% last year to 4% now. And we’re increasing payments in our farming schemes by an average of 10%.

“They are also at the forefront of innovation – from gene editing to boost resilience to disease, to automation to help harvest crops. And while thanks to you we enjoy good quality food all year-round global events – including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – have put food security back at the top of the agenda. We’ll never take our food security for granted. We’ve got a plan to support British farming – and we’re going further again today.”

Productivity schemes

Around £220m will be injected into the future-focused technology and productivity schemes to ensure farmers can invest in automation. It will also fund energy measures, such as rooftop solar, to safeguard land for food production.

“I hope all parties commit to hosting a domestic food security summit each year. Annual assessments will be critical to all of this.”

NFU President Minette Batters

The funding doubles investment in productivity schemes, growing the grant offer from £91m last year to £220m next year to keep up with demand.

In addition, the government will double the Management Payment for SFI so those with existing agreements will receive up to an extra £1,000 this April and it will be extended to Countryside Stewardship mid-tier for the first year of agreements starting by March 2025. This means that the 11,000 farmers that have applied for SFI will receive that top up this spring.

Food Security Index

The Prime Minister also announced a new annual UK-wide Food Security Index to capture and present the data needed to monitor levels of food security, that the Farm to Fork Summit will be held annually, and a £15 million fund to help tackle food waste from the farm gate.

It follows sustained NFU campaigning on the importance of food security with more than 45,000 members of the public calling on the government to take action – NFU's Food Security campaign.

In response to this move, NFU President Minette Batters said: “I think it’s significant. When we left the EU we were told the Agriculture Bill would be five-yearly reporting. It was a real battle to get it to every three years. The good thing about annual reporting focusing on the UK is it means we will be measuring more often, allowing us to monitor the situation, and can see if we have a problem and do something about it.



“I hope all parties commit to hosting a domestic food security summit each year. Annual assessments will be critical to all of this.

“Commitment to core standards will also be key. We have to implement core standards that will mean our negotiators will have a clear mandate on which to negotiate these trade deals. That has to happen.”

In 2020 more than one million members of the public signed an NFU petition calling for the government to put laws in place to prevent imports of food that are produced in ways that would be illegal in the UK – Food standards becomes priority as 1 million sign NFU petition

The Prime Minister said he wanted to change the culture by cutting red tape around permitted development rights so farmers can develop buildings and diversify their businesses.

He announced new regulations set to be laid in Parliament for the dairy sector, ensuring they have reasonable and transparent contracts. Similar regulations for the pig sector will come later this year, with the egg sector expected to follow.

A new supply chain fairness review of the poultry sector is also set to be launched, and Defra is expected to consult stakeholders on whether the sheep and beef sectors should follow.

Meet the speakers from this session

Minette Batters

Former NFU President

Minette runs a tenanted family farm in Wiltshire.  The mixed farming business includes a 100-cow continental cross suckler herd, as well as sheep and arable.

Diversification includes the conversion of a 17th century tithe barn into a wedding and corporate events venue, and horse liveries. Minette co-founded the campaigning initiatives 'Ladies in Beef' and the 'Great British Beef Week'.

Campaigning on behalf of NFU members about the importance of British food and farming has been a key driver for Minette throughout her time at the NFU. In 2020 she led one of the most successful petitions ever, bringing together a coalition of chefs, including Jamie Oliver, farmers, environmentalists, consumer groups and animal welfare experts – resulting in over one million people signing the NFU food standards petition. She has also regularly engaged with different media genres including appearances on Desert Island Discs, Question Time, and Any Questions.

She has been an NFU member from grassroots through to County Chair; she served as Wiltshire’s Council delegate and also as Regional Board Chair for the South West. Minette has also been a member of NFU Governance Board and served as NFU Deputy President for four years from 2014 to 2018, before being elected as president in February 2018. Minette is also an ambassador of Farm Africa and was made a Deputy Lieutenant to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in 2021.

Officeholder responsibilities 

  • Trade and standards
  • EU and international relations
  • Taxation and fiscal policy
  • Science and research and development
  • Food supply chain (fair dealing, Markets and Authorities, competition, regulation)
  • Food service
  • AHDB
  • Levelling up
  • Education

Rishi Sunak

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Rishi Sunak has been leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister since 25 October 2022.

Rishi was previously Chancellor of the Exchequer from 13 February 2020 to 5 July 2022.

He was previously Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 24 July 2019 to 13 February 2020, and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government from 9 January 2018 to 24 July 2019.

Rishi was elected Conservative MP for Richmond (Yorks) in May 2015 and served as a Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy from June 2017 until his ministerial appointment.

Rishi went to Winchester College and studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University. He was also a Fulbright Scholar at Stanford University (USA) where he studied for his MBA.

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