NFU President Minette Batters has responded to the Chancellor’s Autumn statement.
She said: “There is much to be welcomed from today’s announcement particularly on investment in research and development and the roll out of gigabit broadband technology to the hardest to reach rural communities.
“While we await further clarity, these commitments would enable Britain’s farmers to be more productive and efficient, while continuing to produce sustainable food and achieve ambitious net zero goals.
“Like other businesses, it’s rocketing costs for energy – central to producing our food – as well as huge hikes in feed, and fertiliser, which is putting Britain’s farmers and growers under the most intense pressure.
“We expect an announcement on future support for businesses before Christmas and it is vital this new targeted approach for business beyond next April includes UK food production and the food supply chain.
“With a safe, affordable domestic food supply being central to our nation’s success, we believe there are robust grounds for the government to classify our industry as a vulnerable sector when it comes to energy provision.
“We also heard the Chancellor committing that government departments will have their overall budgets increased in real terms.
“We trust this will allow Defra to deliver a properly-funded Agricultural Transition Plan to ensure Britain’s farmers have the confidence to invest and grow their businesses, in turn enabling British food, farming and the country to thrive.”
Ahead of the Autumn statement, Batters had written an open letter to the Defra Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey, outlining the many challenges faced by the sector, highlighting pledges the current Prime Minister made to an NFU hustings event earlier in the year. Mr Sunak pledged 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 NFU and 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.