Labour must make farming priorities clearer, tenant farmers say

Tenant farmers want to see the government drive forward the recommendations from the Rock Review as a priority
Tenant farmers want to see the government drive forward the recommendations from the Rock Review as a priority

Labour must make the party’s food and farming priorities clearer following their landslide general election win, the Tenant Farmers Association has said.

The body said Labour's manifesto contained 'little detail' on its plans for agriculture, adding that the industry needed to understand the new policies.

Released in June, the manifesto contained no big policy surprises of interest to farmers, and gave no details about the future of the agricultural budget.

In response, the TFA has written to Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer calling for the new government to make their stances clearer.

The body, which represents the tenanted farming sector, said its top priority was to see the government drive forward the recommendations from the Rock Review into agricultural tenancies.

The review has a package of recommendations for changes to policy, legislation and taxation affecting the tenanted farming sector, which already has cross-party support.

TFA national chair, Robert Martin, said: “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.”

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

“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,” Mr Martin said.

“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.”

The TFA explained that 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,” Mr Martin warned.

“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.”

Mr Martin added that too many tenanted farm acres were being lost to solar energy production, tree planting and other development without adequate compensation being paid to the farm being displaced.

“That must not be allowed to continue," he warned, "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."

He concluded: “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.”