The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has congratulated Keir Starmer and the Labour Party on their victory in the General Election, but said they must make the party’s food and farming priorities clear.

TFA national chair, Robert Martin, said the association looks forward to working with the new administration to build resilience in the tenanted sector of agriculture.

However, Martin said with the party’s manifesto containing “little detail” on its plans for agriculture, the TFA will need to understand the new government’s food and farming priorities.

“I have taken the opportunity of writing to the Prime Minister to set out what the TFA believes needs to be at the top of the incoming government’s in-tray,” he said.

Rock Review

The TFA said its top priority is to see the new government drive forward the recommendations from the Rock Review into agricultural tenancies.

“The Rock Review has a package of recommendations for changes to policy, legislation and taxation which already has cross-Party support,” Martin said.

“As such, it provides a ready-made platform for delivering much needed resilience in the tenanted sector of agriculture.

“In particular, the new administration should continue to support the work of the Farm Tenancy Forum facilitated by Defra, press ahead with the appointment of the commissioner for the tenant farming sector planned for the autumn and supercharge the implementation of the legislative and taxation recommendations of the Review.”

Next on the TFA’s agenda is to see greater traction in delivering fairness within retail and other food supply chains.

“For too long, farmers and growers have been treated ruthlessly by retail supply chains delivering low returns to primary producers in comparison to their risk and labour,” Martin said.

“The TFA would like to see an expanded role for the Groceries Code Adjudicator to deliver a greater degree of fairness from farm to fork and better returns to primary producers.

“Alongside reform of supply chains, we need to take advantage of our post Brexit freedoms in respect of international trade.

“That means ensuring we do not allow the importation of food and other agricultural products that do not meet our high domestic standards and doing more to grow our exports of food and agricultural products to parts of the globe previously inaccessible under our previous membership of the European Union.”

Balance between food and environment

The TFA said a better balance must be created between food, environmental and energy security through a policy framework.

“Currently we are losing too much of our precious farmland to vanity projects like rewilding and other so called ‘green’ uses,” Martin said.

“Farmers are already delivering a huge amount of environmental benefit in terms of biodiversity, landscape and the sequestration and storage of carbon.

” Corner solutions such as significantly reducing red meat and dairy production or taking out vast swathes of agricultural land for the planting of trees will not be the solution.

“A land sharing approach as between agriculture and nature must be the way forward.”

Martin said too many tenanted farm acres are being lost to solar energy production, tree planting and other development without adequate compensation being paid to the family farm businesses being displaced.

“That must not be allowed to continue. Food security needs to be higher up the public policy agenda but within a balance which delivers environmental and energy security alongside.

“To achieve these priority goals, we will need joined up government across the departments in Whitehall covering farming, the environment, business, planning and of course the Treasury.

“In addition, there will need to be coordination amongst the many statutory agencies and non-departmental public bodies with influence over the areas highlighted.

“Labour’s election victory gives it major opportunity to deliver the change that is needed, and we will work with the new government to those ends.”