At a crossroads: Batters urges leadership candidates to back British farming

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) is urging all Conservative Party leadership candidates to commit to delivering a positive future for British food production and farming.

In an open letter, NFU president Minette Batters highlighted three key policy areas she hoped the future Prime Minister would work towards:

  • A Brexit that creates the right conditions for British farming to thrive, including free and frictionless trade in agri-food goods and an immigration system that maintains access to a seasonal and permanent workforce;
  • An agricultural policy which supports farmers as food producers and acknowledges the importance of domestic food production;
  • Collaborating with British farmers to support our environment, countryside and rural communities.

Batters also highlighted the importance of avoiding a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, given the “considerable economic damage” it could mean for Britain’s food and farming sectors, the wider economy and the British public.

‘At a crossroads’

A similar letter was sent to the candidates for the Liberal Democrat leadership reiterating the role they can play in supporting a bright future for British food and farming, such as through the Agriculture Bill’s passage through Parliament.

In the letter to Conservative party leadership candidates, Mrs. Batters wrote: “Farming is now at a crossroads.

“As the industry potentially most affected by the decision to leave the European Union, the next Prime Minister has a unique opportunity and responsibility to shape the future of British farming, food production and the countryside we all value so highly.

Get it right and the rewards can be huge; get it wrong and we could see the decimation of Britain’s ability to feed itself and to care for our iconic landscapes.

“For this reason, the next Prime Minister must commit to doing everything in their power to avoid a hugely damaging no-deal Brexit, given the enormous economic damage this would entail for our food and farming sectors, the wider economy and the people of the UK.

“Of course, avoiding no-deal and achieving the right outcome from Brexit remains a huge priority for farm businesses; but we also want to work with the next Prime Minister and their Government on a broader range of issues, to seize the opportunities the future holds.

“As a candidate in the Conservative leadership election, I am asking you to rise to these challenges and pledge your support for farming and commit to a positive future for domestic food production and the high standards associated with it.”

Boris Johnston, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Dominic Raab and Rory Stewart remain in the race after Matt Hancock chose to withdraw on Friday afternoon (June 14).

Andrea Leadsom, Mark Harper and Esther McVey were eliminated after the first secret ballot on Thursday (June 13).

Johnston topped the first ballot with 114 votes, Hunt followed in second with 43, and Defra Secretary Gove finished in third with 37.