Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

At the NFU conference, Labour promises to decrease the amount of imported goods that compete with and harm British farmers.
Environment World News

At the NFU conference, Labour promises to decrease the amount of imported goods that compete with and harm British farmers.

At the NFU conference, Labour has presented its proposals for the agricultural industry, including a commitment to decrease the presence of imported products that undermine British farmers and to strengthen trade ties with the EU.

Daniel Zeichner, the opposition’s farming minister, made several promises that seemed to prioritize competent governance rather than drastic changes. Among these pledges, he assured that the Labour party would effectively implement the environmental land management scheme, which compensates farmers for adopting eco-friendly practices, and address issues related to flooding.

On Tuesday, the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, assured farmers that he would provide substantial grants and support, stating that he stands behind them.

The Tories are cognizant of the potential loss of support from farmers, as evidenced by the NFU poll released on Wednesday which revealed their members’ unfavorable opinion of Sunak, at -36.

The farmers appear to favor Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour party, who has a rating of -8. Based on polling data, Labour is predicted to come out on top in rural regions: 36% of NFU members surveyed plan to vote for Labour and 32% intend to vote for the Conservative party. This marks a significant shift from the 2019 election results, where the Tories received 58% of the farmer vote and Labour only received 20%.

Both Starmer and the shadow environment secretary, Steve Reed, did not attend the main conference sessions, which came as a surprise. However, Reed did attend a dinner on Tuesday.

Zeichner spoke about the influence of the Conservative party on the industry, stating at a public debate that the current government has overseen the shutting down of farms and widespread disorder, leading to over 6,000 agriculture businesses closing down since 2017. He declared that if Labour were in power, they would strongly support British farmers by decreasing our dependence on uncertain imports, promoting top-notch local products for consumers, and putting an end to the disgraceful sight of empty supermarket shelves.

According to him, the party’s strategy for ensuring food security involves reducing the bureaucratic obstacles that farmers encounter when importing and exporting goods. He also expressed concern over the risk of low-quality imports that could harm domestic producers. The free trade agreements negotiated after Brexit, particularly the one with Australia, have faced significant backlash from farmers and the former secretary of the environment.

According to Zeichner, the government’s evaluations have shown that the trade agreement with New Zealand could lead to a decrease of £48m in the agriculture and fisheries industry. He also expressed concern over Jacob Rees-Mogg’s remarks at the Conservative party conference, stating that they reflect a certain ideology within the party that has been present in recent years and may continue to be in the future.

Additionally, he made a commitment to resolve the issue at Dover where he alleged that tainted meat had entered British territory. Plans to relocate post-Brexit checks 21 miles inland have been suggested, which was deemed “highly risky” by Zeichner. He stated that Labour will aim to establish a veterinary agreement with the European Union in order to resume the export of British food and protect standards.

At the conference, there has been a significant discussion regarding the English environmental land management program. Due to farmers not enrolling, the government has failed to spend hundreds of millions of pounds. Additionally, financial analysis that demonstrates the detrimental impact on farmers has been concealed by officials. Agricultural companies have requested increased funding, citing the potential risk of closure as the EU common agricultural policy is gradually eliminated.

The Minister of Agriculture, Mark Spencer, stated that he will strongly advocate for an increase in the farming payments budget from £2.4 billion annually to £3.4 billion from Sunak. The Liberal Democrats have pledged to raise it by £1 billion. Zeichner expressed concern over making promises to increase payments without understanding the potential benefits during difficult times. He did mention that Labour would make the results of the programs public and make necessary adjustments to eliminate underspending.

Tim Farron, the spokesperson for farming in the Liberal Democrat party, expressed disapproval of the Conservative party’s poorly executed transition and stated that hill farmers in his constituency have experienced a 41% decrease in income due to the new environment schemes. He also highlighted the issue of “lakeland clearances”, where landlords evict tenant farmers from the hills to participate in government nature schemes for financial gain. In response, Spencer promised to address the issue of landowners displacing tenants and using large portions of their land for wild bird food to receive payments of £800 per acre. However, this solution appears to be limited to issuing strong guidance.

Source: theguardian.com