So, as many had previously predicted, we now have a new government in London, courtesy of the 2024 UK general election.

The Labour Party is set fair to rule for the next five years, and possibly beyond, given the scale of the majority it secured.

Now is the time for stakeholder bodies across farming and food to lay out their demands for two sectors that go to the very heart of the UK economy and the rural way of life.

Getting new commitments from Downing Street on indigenous food security has got to be the number one priority for production agriculture.

And this must be achieved in tandem with adequate support and the delivery of sustainable farm gate prices.  

But above all, farmers need to see the delivery of clear and long-term commitments from the new government that will allow these primary producers to invest in the future of their own businesses with a degree of certainty.

UK general election

If farm businesses are not put on a secure economic footing, then the idea that production agriculture can deliver large swathes of the UK’s response to climate change go out the window.  

And there is an absolute onus on Stormont Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Andrew Muir to lead the change for agriculture in Northern Ireland, where these matters are concerned.

DAERA Minister Andrew Muir
Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Andrew Muir

The instant that Rishi Sunak called the general election, some six weeks ago, the post-Brexit support funding arrangements for agriculture in Northern Ireland were terminated with immediate effect.

So, there is now an opportunity for Minister Muir to seek a new farm support dispensation from Downing Street.

All of Northern Ireland’s farming bodies have confirmed that they need to see a significant increase in the funding levels made available to agriculture and rural areas.

Up to now, the annual figure has come in at some £300 million – a figure that has been kept at this level for the past decade and more.

Depending on which farm organisation one speaks to, the future farming budget must come in at a figure that is between £400 million and £600 million.

No doubt the devil will be in the detail once Minister Muir gets to London later in the year.

However, in addition to the support figure agreed for the coming year, the other issue that needs to be addressed is that of delivering an agri-support package that is inflation proofed.

Only this way can farmers be given any form of security for the future.

There will also be a need for the new Labour government to look seriously at the way in which farmers are paid for the food they produce.

Putting in place a regime of guaranteed prices may be a step too far for Downing Street over the coming years.

However, appointing an agri-food retailer, a person who can act to secure a more equitable share of the monies within the farming and food chain for primary producers, is a wholly obtainable objective.