NFU President Minette Batters has called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to deliver on his pledge to set a target for the nation’s food security in 2023.
Mrs Batters met the Prime Minister in Downing Street just before Christmas. The meeting came after the NFU highlighted concerns that many farm businesses were reducing production to limit losses from soaring inflation and energy bills, and the risk that posed to Britain’s home-grown food supply.
Mrs Batters stressed the importance of the Prime Minister honouring the commitments he made during the leadership race, especially to establish a food security target, underpinned by a statutory duty to monitor domestic food production, and to hold a UK-wide annual food security summit at Number 10.
After the meeting, Mr Sunak said: “Farming is the lifeblood of our nation. As Prime Minister I will always back our farmers and make sure they have what they need to produce more high-quality, affordable British food.”
New Year message
In her New Year message, Mrs Batters said nobody could have predicted what we’ve witnessed in the past 12 months.
“From the war in Ukraine, which has created global turmoil and significantly disrupted food and energy supply chains, to our own political upheavals. On top of that we’ve had soaring input costs and the effects of climate change demonstrated by this year’s drought; the challenges faced by us all have been unprecedented,” she said.
“Clearly, events over the last year have made the job of producing food throughout the world so much harder. The importance of British farming to deliver food and energy has never been clearer.
“I never take for granted the huge public support farming receives and it is clear the nation continues to value our high food standards, produced to world-leading animal welfare and environmental protection, as well as our ability to produce renewable energy and contribute to the nation’s energy security.”
While it has been a challenging year, she highlighted a number of successes as a result of the NFU’s campaigning in 2022, including the meeting with Mr Sunak.
“Looking to the year ahead, we have the opportunity to build on these successes and deliver more for the country. We have the ambition and drive to produce more renewable energy, enhance our environment, care for our countryside and work towards our commitment to reach net zero by 2040, all while producing sustainable food,” she added.
“To do this we need to ensure that we build profitability and resilience into our farm businesses to allow us to safeguard the nation’s food and energy security. It is vital that the government delivers the policies and investment needed to unlock a thriving food and farming sector.
“It was clear from my meeting with the Prime Minister that he has the same ambition as us for British food and farming. If we are to continue delivering for the nation, we need to see him honour his pledge made at the NFU Hustings event in August – to support British farming by setting a target for the nation’s food security, with a statutory duty to report on domestic food levels.”
She also called for clarity on policies like the Environmental Land Management schemes to ensure farmers can plan financial resilience into their businesses and continue to produce climate-friendly food alongside green energy.
“2022 has been an extraordinary year,” she concluded. “I am hopeful that 2023 will be the year that the government gets serious about British food and farming and that the government delivers the policies and support needed for us to thrive domestically and in markets around the world.”