Shadow Defra secretary Rachael Maskell has outlined Labour’s policies for farming following the UK decision to leave the European Union.
A future Labour government would extend post-Brexit measures to protect the environment – but without compromising agricultural production, she said.
Ms Maskell made the pledge in her keynote speech to the Labour party annual conference in Liverpool on Sunday (25 September).
Economic certainty formed the bedrock of delivering food security and a strong agricultural and fishing sector, she said.
But it was clear the government had “no plan for the future of the sector”, which employed 3.9 million people and where 75% of food exports went to the EU.
“While the government may not understand strategic business planning, the agricultural and food sectors do,” Ms Maskell told conference delegates
“Crucially, how we trade will determine if rural Britain thrives or survives.”
Labour would work with the food and agricultural sector to underpin trade with the right financial drivers to grow production – while protecting the natural world.
“Labour will back British farming – plough to plate,” said Ms Maskell.
A Labour government would ensure that its policies for the countryside would hit the right balance between farming and environmental measures, she added.
“We will defend and extend environmental protections, but will not compromise production.”
Ms Maskell also gave what she described as a “clear commitment to farmers and food manufacturers” on the issue of migrant workers following Brexit.
“Every shred of evidence says bovine TB will be beaten with better testing, vaccination, better biosecurity and animal husbandry.”
“Under Labour, the workforce you have recruited, invested in and trained from the EU will have the right to stay and keep their jobs,” she said.
A Labour government would establish a new Agricultural Sector Council, to underpin all issues of employment standards, including wages, across the sector.
It would expose all to the opportunities of highly skilled farming jobs, as well as the “unbeatable privilege and yet skilled work” of rearing stock and growing crops.
Pledging to ensure that all the risks in food production did not fall on farmers, Ms Maskell said Labour would extend the powers of the government’s Grocery Code Adjudicator.
This would provide protection right through the food production chain.
On bovine TB, Ms Maskell said Labour would end the badger cull, but still prioritise ending the disease that has ravaged dairy and beef herds.
“Every shred of evidence says bovine TB will be beaten with better testing, vaccination, better biosecurity and animal husbandry,” said Ms Maskell.
“A government that ignores scientists, academics, its own experts and many farmers too, and instead turns its frustration on a badger, is giving false hope.”