NFU President Tom Bradshaw. Photo by Toby Lea / NFU

Farmers union sees Starmer’s landslide win as potential opportunity for ‘change’

Produce Business report

“Change begins now.”

Those words, spoken by new Prime Minister Keir Starmer after his overwhelming victory Thursday propelled the Labour Party into power, promise a new path for the nation.

They also may provide a silver lining for British farmers, who are collectively looking for that “reset moment.”

Reacting swiftly to news of the “change” and the ousting of Conservatives at the top, the National Farmers Union offered its hope that the new leader and party will put agriculture and sustainability at the fore of their priorities.

“With British farmers and growers ambitious for the future, what they – and the public – need are practical policies that revitalise farm business confidence and deliver on our shared mission of food security,” NFU President Tom Bradshaw said in a statement. “In a cost-of-living crisis, our ability to provide affordable, climate-friendly and high-welfare food will be critical for families across the country, as well as underpinning the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, food and drink, and stimulating economic growth.”

This will be no small task for the new PM and Labour, who must find a way to both build back confidence in the sector and ensure its financial future against a backdrop of ever-rising costs and labour shortfalls.

It seems they will be listening. The NFU says nearly 380 potential MPs met with NFU leaders and farmers before the election. Many of them who have secure their posts will get debriefed on what farmers will need moving forward, including new policies, during an MPs reception on 18 July.

Investments in British farming

The NFU says the first goal will be to finalize an agricultural budget through “the next Parliament.” According to Bradshaw, that will mean “investing in the future of British farming – in homegrown food, in the environment and in renewable energy.”

The NFU cited a study from the Andersens Centre that put that price tag at £4 billion, but it could top £5.5 billion. That includes:

  • Nearly £2.7 billion to meet the government’s environmental goals
  • £615 million for driving productivity
  • £720 million to support the economic stability of agricultural businesses

“This will allow a fair transition away from the old EU system, to one that delivers public good for public funds, gives farmers the confidence to invest, and makes the government’s aims around sustainable food production, food security, the environment and net zero possible,” the NFU noted.

In addition to asking for more action and transparency on water quality and land management with Defra, the NFU wants to see legislation “as soon as possible” on Labour’s commitment that half of all food sold in the UK will be from the UK.

“Core production standards are desperately needed to give British farmers confidence that they will not be undercut by imported food produced to lower standards,” the NFU said. “The Labour manifesto went some way towards this and the NFU will urge the new government to make a clear, immediate commitment. … Food security is national security, but it is business confidence which forms the foundation of this.”

Among the NFU’s other asks are “various issues that need greater recognition if the sector is to unlock its potential for growth,” including:

  • A fit-for-purpose Seasonal Workers Scheme
  • Effective import controls
  • Supply chain fairness
  • Investment in infrastructure
  • Flexibility in planning

Labour committed before the election to higher standards on food imports.

“Working together on these immediate priorities is a win-win,” Bradshaw said. “The public will get more of the British food they know and love, farmers and growers will have the confidence to build profitable, sustainable, resilient businesses.”



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