NFU discusses 'key and immediate actions' with new Defra head

Defra Secretary Steve Reed (left) held talks with NFU President Tom Bradshaw (middle)
Defra Secretary Steve Reed (left) held talks with NFU President Tom Bradshaw (middle)

The NFU president has met with the government's new Defra Secretary to discuss 'key and immediate actions' that are needed to boost British farming.

Topics high on the agenda included the role of food security in delivering national security, the investment required for the future of farming and restrictions around planning policy.

Steve Reed, who was appointed the new Defra Secretary, has outlined his plan for change, with food security, the environment and flood management all focus areas.

NFU President Tom Bradshaw said that with Labour's huge majority government, it was 'crucial' the voices of farmers were heard 'loud and clear'.

He said: “We’ll continue to work closely with Defra to provide policy solutions on issues such as bovine TB, the transition to ELMs, core standards for agri-food imports, workforce, supply chain fairness, investment in infrastructure and flexibility in planning.”

As well as meeting with the Defra Secretary, the NFU has also written to MPs and Cabinet ministers outlining the importance of the industry.

The letters, one sent to all English and Welsh MPs and others to all Cabinet ministers in the context of their portfolios, have set out priority policies.

These include an increased multi-year agriculture budget for the duration of the next parliament, a transparent transition to ELMs and regulation on supply chain fairness and public procurement.

The letters also include priority policies covering controls on imports that don’t meet core production standards, as well as better access to skilled workers in the horticulture and agriculture sector.

Mr Bradshaw said that in an increasingly volatile world, the production of homegrown food had to be high on the political agenda, adding "it’s something that matters to everyone and every MP."

He said: “I urge all MPs, representing both urban and rural constituencies, to take us up on our offer of a local farm visit so they can hear first-hand about how investment in agriculture can benefit British families, British business and the great British countryside.”

Who is Steve Reed?

Mr Reed previously served as the Labour Party’s Shadow Minister for Defra when in opposition. He was first elected as the MP for Streatham and Croydon North, previously Croydon North, in 2012.

He has also been the Labour Party’s spokesperson for justice and communities and local government before then.

Before entering parliament, Mr Reed was the leader of Lambeth Council for more than six years. In 2013, he received an OBE from Her Majesty the Queen for services to local government.

In 2018, he became the first Labour MP in 22 years to pass a major new act of parliament, Seni’s Law, from opposition. Seni’s Law protects people with mental ill health from violent restraint and tackle deaths in custody.

In the past, the new Defra Secretary confirmed the party had no plans to change inheritance tax including Agricultural Property Relief.