Food security a top priority in NFU and Defra talks

NFU president Tom Bradshaw met new Defra secretary Steve Reed on his first full day in office to discuss urgent actions needed to support the British food and farming sector.

The talks, at Defra HQ in London, focused on the critical role of food security in ensuring national security, the investment required for the future of farming, and restrictions around planning policy.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Bradshaw said it was crucial that the voices of the NFU’s 46,000 members were heard “loud and clear” by the new Defra ministerial team.

See also: Analysis: What would a Labour government do for food and farming?

“Steve Reed has just outlined his plan for change, and it’s good to hear that food security, the environment and flood management are all focus areas,” the NFU leader said.

“These now need to be underpinned by a budget that will enable the necessary investment.”

The meeting also discussed ongoing dialogue between the NFU and Defra on several other key issues. These included:

  • Bovine TB management
  • Transition to Environmental Land Management
  • Establishing core standards for agri-food imports
  • Addressing agricultural workforce challenges
  • Ensuring supply chain fairness
  • Promoting investment in infrastructure and planning flexibility.

The NFU has written to MPs and cabinet ministers, stressing the significance of British farming, which underpins the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, the food and drink industry.

The sector contributes more than £146bn to the economy and employs more than four million people.

Mr Bradshaw urged all MPs, regardless of constituency, to visit local farms to understand how agricultural investment benefits the broader community and the country.

In an increasingly volatile world, the production of safe, sustainable and affordable home-grown food must be high on the political agenda, he said.

Five core principles

Mr Reed has set out five core priorities for Defra: cleaning up Britain’s rivers, lakes and seas; creating a road map to move Britain to a zero-waste economy; supporting farmers to boost Britain’s food security; ensuring nature’s recovery; and protecting communities from the dangers of flooding.

“Confidence among farmers is the lowest on record,” he said. “It will take years to reverse the damage that’s been done, but the work of change has now begun.”

Mr Bradshaw and Mr Reed were joined by new Defra farming minister Daniel Zeichner, who was shadow minister when Labour was in opposition.

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