What a Labour government could mean for farming

Labour has said that there will be no significant change from current policies (Photo: NFU)
Labour has said that there will be no significant change from current policies (Photo: NFU)

New analysis has detailed what a Labour government could mean for the farming and wider rural sector based on its manifesto and key statements made pre-election.

What isn’t expected are large-scale changes to farm policy and agri-environment schemes, according to Strutt & Parker's analysis, released shortly after Labour's landslide general election victory on 4 July.

Party representatives have also made public statements that they have no plans to change agricultural property relief on farmland.

They also say they will not tell landowners what to grow and the public what to eat and while they do want to ‘improve responsible access to nature’ this will not be a right to roam over farmland.

Dr Jason Beedell, rural research director for Strutt & Parker, says: "All of this is not surprising. Labour has been, quietly and not so quietly, courting the rural vote, including landowners.

"It wants to give the impression that it understands the sector and that it will be supportive of it. At every opportunity the Party has been at pains to reassure the audience and to not scare the horses.

"However, it has made commitments on planning and renewable energy generation which do have the potential to change how the countryside looks and works.

"These will bring both opportunities and challenges for landowners and rural communities.”

Farm support and agri-environment schemes

Labour has said that there will be no significant change from current policies. The manifesto says that it, ‘…recognises that food security is national security. That is why we will champion British farming whilst protecting the environment.’

Jonty Armitage, head of farming at Strutt & Parker, thinks that this is the right approach as farmers need certainty.

"There has been considerable change in farm support and we are coming towards the end of a seven-year transition period," he explains.

The sector has largely adapted to the changes and some, like the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), are starting to be taken up by a significant proportion of farmers.

Mr Armitage adds: "Labour says that it will ‘improve’ the schemes. We don’t know what this means but we hope that it means that there will be more focus on skills and training for land managers so that the schemes do actually improve productivity, decarbonise farming systems and deliver the expected environmental outcomes.”

Farming budget

One unknown is how much money Labour will commit to the farming budget. Many farming organisations have been calling for clarity and some for an increase in spending.

Labour has committed to current spending levels in this year and says it will decide future spending once it has carried out a spending review this autumn, so it knows how much money is available.

Land use framework

Labour plans to introduce a land use framework, which is something that the previous government promised but has been repeatedly delayed.

Dr Jason Beedell, Strutt & Parker's rural research director, supports Labour’s intention to produce a land use framework.

He says: "We think it will give the sector much needed direction on how to balance the different things now expected from land, including food production, nature recovery and benefits to communities.

"We would also like to see the framework supported by a national food strategy, that includes consumers as well as food producers, and comprehensive strategies for horticulture, crop and livestock production.”

Public food procurement, bovine TB and border checks

Positively, Labour is also proposing that half of all food purchased by the public sector should be locally produced or certified to higher environmental standards.

It says it will work with farmers and scientists to eradicate bovine TB, although its commitment to ‘end the ineffective badger cull’ puts it at odds with the NFU and some other farming organisations.

It has also committed to negotiate a veterinary agreement with the EU to prevent unnecessary border checks to remove barriers to businesses.

Agricultural Property Relief and inheritance tax

Many long-term decisions about land are driven by inheritance tax. Labour has said it has no plans to change Agricultural Property Relief (APR), which allows farmland to be transferred between generations without incurring inheritance tax.

It is a long-standing relief which the NFU says is important for helping to keep small family businesses alive and for encouraging land to be available to rent.

Rhodri Thomas, head of rural at Strutt & Parker, says having this continuity in policy is important for the sector.

“Having this certainty means some landowners will consider letting land out, including to new entrants, and that the sector can focus on delivering its, and the new government’s, aims without the distraction of new capital tax planning.”

There is also hopes that Labour maintains the recent decision to tax land used for conservation in the same way as land used for food production.


Labour has said it will improve responsible access to nature by creating nine new National River Walks, one in each region of England, and establishing three new National Forests in England.

However, it has said it will not introduce a Scottish-style right to roam across farmland. Steve Reed, who was previously Shadow Defra Secretary, said such a right could cause damage to valuable crops and stock.