'Challenging times': Farm leaders urge government to boost food production

(L-R) NFU Cymru dep pres Abi Reader, NFU pres Tom Bradshaw, UFU pres David Brown and NFU Scotland pres Martin Kennedy
(L-R) NFU Cymru dep pres Abi Reader, NFU pres Tom Bradshaw, UFU pres David Brown and NFU Scotland pres Martin Kennedy

The UK's farming unions have urged the government to prioritise food production during 'these challenging times' following their annual summit.

Senior leaders of the four UK unions, alongside the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA), stressed the need for government to do more to back farming and boost food security.

Proposals around a new farming scheme are presently being consulted on within Wales, which is causing huge concern and unrest amongst famers.

Many farmers fear that the proposals are unworkable, and unless a different approach is taken, they say the plans will severely impact the ambitions of the sector and its viability.

In England, farmers will protest outside parliament tomorrow (25 March) due to concerns over lower quality food imports and the lack of measures to boost food security.

Hosted by the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) at the Lough Erne Resort, Co. Fermanagh, the annual summit consisted of the UFU, NFU, NFU Scotland and NFU Cymru, alongside the IFA.

UFU president David Brown said to safeguard the nation’s food security, the government must build profitability and resilience into farm businesses.

He said: "This requires a closer partnership between farmers and politicians, so we can continue to produce the high-quality food that consumers expect, while delivering for the environment and economy.

"Across the UK there needs to be a balanced approach at a policy level, not just to look at the environmental side of agriculture, but at the economic and social consequences of agricultural production.

"Farmers cannot be sacrificed for other societal objectives, they are essential to both a healthy world and a healthy population.

"Food security must be a top priority for any government and we need unwavering commitment for local farming and food production from all UK parties."

Processors and retailers also need to get behind domestic food production, the unions said, which called for more fairness in the supply chain that must not undermine the market.

Other key discussion points at the annual summit included the lack of labour, trade standards, TB, new agricultural support policies, land tenure and environmental targets.

Mr Brown added: "We will continue to work together to navigate these challenging times and grasp the opportunities, ensuring a sustainable and viable agricultural industry going forward.”