Tory farming budget pledge falls short of industry demands

The Conservative government has pledged to increase the UK-wide farming budget by £1bn over the life of the next parliament if it is re-elected.

The farm funding commitment is included in the party’s manifesto, which was published on Tuesday (11 June).

It falls far short of Liberal Democrat proposals to fund farming by an additional £1bn each year of parliament.

See also: Industry leaders seek election clarity on future farm budget

NFU president Tom Bradshaw has called for the next government to increase the UK agricultural budget by £2bn to £5.5bn a year, to enable the industry to meet the twin goals of feeding the nation and meeting the government’s ambitious environmental goals.

The Labour Party has yet to set out its plans for UK agriculture, but this should be included in its election manifesto, which is due out on Thursday.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak launched his party’s manifesto at Silverstone racetrack on Tuesday.

The manifesto budget commitment is the first in a list of pledges to the food and farming industry.

It says: “Increase the UK-wide farming budget by £1bn over the parliament, ensuring it rises by inflation in every year.

“Farmers will be able to spend every extra penny on grants to boost domestic food production on top of maintaining our approach to Environmental Land Management schemes.”

The Conservatives say they will continue to ringfence agricultural funding “so it is passed directly on to farming and rural communities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland” alongside a new £20m UK-wide fund. 

Trade deals

The government has been strongly criticised from the farming industry for signing free-trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand, which British farmers fear risks their livelihoods.

However, the Tory manifesto vows to “always stand up for farmers when negotiating new trade deals”.

Other Conservatives manifesto commitments for farming include:

  • The introduction of a legally binding target to enhance our food security, to apply UK-wide alongside the UK Food Security Index
  • A public sector procurement goal of at least 50% of food expenditure to be spent on food produced locally or to higher environmental production standards
  • Reform of the planning system to deliver fast track permissions for the building of infrastructure on farms, such as glasshouses, slurry and grain stores, and small-scale reservoirs
  • Stick to the plan to support the agricultural sector with the labour it needs to maintain food security, while moving away from the reliance on seasonal migrant labour with a five-year visa tapered scheme

Alongside these commitments, the Tory manifesto takes a swipe at Labour farming policy under the Welsh government.

“Labour’s actions in Wales show that they will never be on the side of the farming community,” it says.

“Their blueprint involves top-down targets, fundamentally denying farmers the flexibility they need to achieve environmental goals in ways that work for them and making their primary job of keeping the nation fed harder.

“Conservatives will always be on the side of farmers.”

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