As voting ballots begin to arrive at the doorsteps of Conservative Party members, both leadership candidates have announced their plans to deal with food security issues and the future of British farming.
Former chancellor Rishi Sunak has vowed to support UK farmers in all future trade deals and has promised a Downing Street summit focusing on food security.
Foreign secretary Liz Truss said her newly-announced plans – including an expansion of the seasonal workers recruitment scheme – will make British farmers more competitive by “freeing them to grow more sustainable and high-quality British food in order to enhance our nation’s food security”.
As summarised by Farmers Weekly, Sunak’s plans on agriculture include:
- Supporting local farmers in all future UK trade deals
- Boosting domestic food production via a new UK food security target, reviewed annually through a food security summit at 10 Downing Street
- The introduction of new targets for the public sector to source at least 50% of their food locally
- Funding a new UK food and drink advertising campaign
- Making sure housing, “rewilding” or large-scale solar farms have minimal impact on food production
Speaking to the Countryside Alliance, Sunak said “food production and food security have never been so important”.
As reported in the IOE&IT's Daily Update bulletin, the National Farmers’ Union and the RSPCA have called for the UK government to implement “core standards” in its future trade deals.
The proposed two-tier system, aimed at protecting UK food producers and consumers, would set out the most important animal welfare and environmental protections and reflect the UK’s own production standards.
Truss – who once served as international trade secretary and as head of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – announced her proposed “short-term expansion” to the seasonal worker recruitment scheme. This, she argued, would deal with farming labour issues, according to The Telegraph.
The current scheme allows for 40,000 foreign workers to come to the UK for six months each year to work on horticulture projects and is due to expire in 2024.
Truss has announced she plans to lift the cap on the number of workers, extend the current six-month time limit and keep the scheme beyond the 2024 expiry date.
A source told The Daily Mail that Truss would also work on designing a new scheme with the farming industry.
The former trade secretary also said she would “remove onerous EU regulations” if she becomes prime minister, according to The Independent.
The regulations mentioned include agricultural drone use and precision-breeding technologies.