Minette Batters urges Government to make food security a priority, in final New Year message
30th Dec 2023 / By Alistair Driver
Minette Batters has urged the Government to make food security a priority, in her final New Year address as NFU president.
Mrs Batters, who will stand down from the role at February's NFU conference, reflected on the 'unprecedented challenges' the farming community has faced over the past 12 months.
"Soaring production costs, global turmoil from the Ukraine war, extreme weather and significant delays to the future of farm payments have all put the resilience of British farmers at risk," she said.
"Yet, amid these adversities, it’s important not to overlook the incredible successes we’ve seen this year, from the unwavering support of the British public to crucial government policy wins."
She hailed the 'landmark achievement' of the first ever Farm to Fork Summit held at Number 10, and said the achievements of the Precision Breeding Bill and Equipment Theft Bill in receiving Royal Assent were 'two key causes for celebration this year. The bills granted farmers greater access to precision breeding tools for their crops and livestock and the government greater powers against equipment theft.
She added: "Over 27,000 members of the public rallied behind our campaign with Dr Luke Evans MP to get supermarkets to support British farmers and growers by adding a Buy British Button to their websites, culminating with Morrisons becoming the first supermarket to do so (more here)."
Mrs Batters said it was 'heartening' to see the public’s recognition and appreciation for the vital work farmers do 365 days of the year to produce climate friendly food, care for livestock, and protect and enhance the environment we all know and love.
Recent NFU research demonstrates that 82% of the public are in favour of the government setting food security targets, while 84% think food production targets are either as important or more important than the environmental targets we have current legislation for.
"I cannot thank the public enough for their support; it has been crucial during the turbulence of the past few years," Mrs Batters added.
"All of this said, I am extremely mindful that, as we close 2023 and welcome in a new year, there is still much to do. Despite the progress made, the government is still a long way behind on its commitments.
"As a matter of urgency, our national food security must now be embedded into the Sustainable Farming Initiative. With 50% of Basic Payment Scheme payments capped, the tapering of payments to 2027 is very concerning for farmers.
"Our ambitions are clear. Food security must be a top priority for any government and investing in our farming and growing sector is essential for productivity, job creation, and economic and environmental delivery. British farmers and growers provide the raw ingredients for the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, British food and drink is worth more than £128 billion to the national economy.
"This new year, let’s build on the momentum of the public’s unwavering support and forge a path towards a resilient and thriving British agricultural sector so we can continue what we do best – producing great British food."