Lib Dems launch rescue plan for farmers

Tim Farron is going to be speaking to the National Farmers’ Union today and he’ll set out a rescue package for Britain’s farmers who have essentially been done over by the Government in so many ways. Whether it’s post-Brexit payments, unworkable rules on workers visas or trade deals that put our own farmers at a disadvantage, the party is announcing its solution, which includes an extra £1 billion for farmers.

Tim said:

British farmers need to be rescued from years of Conservative neglect and failed rural policies, which have left our countryside in dire need of help. For too long Conservative MPs have taken farmers for granted. Conservative Ministers are shamelessly attempting to rewrite history ahead of the General Election.

Farmers are increasingly turning to the Liberal Democrats to send this Conservative government a message.

Farmers do not only put food on our tables, but crucially, act as the custodians of our environment. Yet Ministers have failed spectacularly to roll out new payment programmes, and signed botched overseas trade deals which have undercut environmental standards.

Enough is enough. It is time for change and the British countryside won’t be ignored any longer by this out of touch Conservative government.

Lib Dems would:

1. Raise the farming budget by £1bn

An immediate injection of £1 billion into agricultural and horticultural budgets, taking them from £2.4bn to £3.4bn, to further support sustainable domestic food production, initially targeted at shortage areas. The funds would go towards productivity improvements, training and technology to bring down prices for the long-term and make the UK more resilient against import shocks, and would support farmers committed to a more sustainable environmentally-friendly direction for farming.

2. Fix workforce shortages for farmers, fishers and food processing 

Let farmers, fishers and the food processing sector recruit the workers they need to boost our food supply by scrapping arbitrary visa salary thresholds. According to the NFU, a shortage of workers caused £60m worth of fruit and veg to go to waste in the first half of 2022. The union also said they need an additional 70,000 workers, when the Government’s ‘Seasonal Worker Visa’ only offers 45,000 positions. Meanwhile those working on fishing boats must apply for a skilled worker visa

3. Fix botched trade deals

The Liberal Democrats call for the reopening of the Australian trade deal to ensure that British standards are not undercut and require Australia to meet climate change commitments.

Introduce legislation to guarantee British standards of environmental protection and animal welfare in trade deals and giving Parliament the powers to approve negotiating mandates and give final approval of trade agreements.

Meanwhile, in Wales, Jane Dodds has spoken out against the proposed Sustainable Farming scheme proposed by the Welsh Government.

The scheme has come under heavy criticism from farming unions in recent weeks, leading to several protests.

Last weekend saw farmers hold a “go-slow” protest at a Welsh Labour leadership debate in Newtown, Powys.

According to the Welsh Government’s own impact assessment, the SFS could cause an 11% cut in jobs in the farming sector directly.

The same assessment also suggested a £125.3 million hit to output from the sector, and a loss of £199 million to farm business income.

Jane said:

I know from first hand experience that many farmers earnestly support the desire to make nature-friendly farming the standard across Wales.

But when they are being presented with something as complex as the Sustainable Farming Scheme, these farmers are at the same time rightfully anxious about the prospect of transitioning.

For years, farmers have strained under mounting regulations that impose excessive paperwork demands. Countless studies have shown that paperwork overload is often the top cause of stress amongst farmers, with 60% of farmers overwhelmed by constant form filling.

With our farmers already suffering policy fatigue around pollution controls, health and safety and disease testing, the SFS’s extensive and complicated actions could prove to be a mental breaking point for so many.

The Welsh Labour government must sit down and listen to the concerns of farmers, they must recognise the complexities and difficulties surrounding their approach to funding our farms.

Our farmers shouldn’t be turned into scapegoats by Labour Ministers in Cardiff Bay who have shown time and time again a complete lack of understanding of the needs of rural areas.

We cannot afford to alienate our farming community, particularly when they are willing to work with us in transitioning to a greener approach to farming.

 

 

 

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5 Comments

  • Tories lied to farmers (‘you’ll be better off out of the EU/CAP’). And the likes of Coffey showed an ignorance of rural life only matched by Labour’s prejudice against it (see any Guardian thread).
    So pleased to see Tim and Jane – who do know the realities – proposing something positive.
    Yes, it’s good to improve the environment. But we also need food, and food security in an increasingly uncertain world.
    And cheap imports are just exporting environmental issues, and reducing our food security.

  • Great stuff by both Tim and Jane.

  • Why throw another £1bn at farmers when wealthy landowners just pocket the subsidy payments as extra profit? I’d rather see that money spent on the NHS, prisons, bailing out local authorities than enabling rich farmers to keep their children in independent schools.

    Not all farmers are rich, but there is more than enough in the farming budget already. Move it around, not slosh more in.

  • ‘Not all farmers are rich…’ Indeed. The average income of lowland grazing livestock farms in 2022-23 was £21,600.
    Upland farms lost £10,400 on average from agriculture, and were kept afloat by other income sources (tourism etc) and by support payments.

  • Peter Hirst 1st Mar '24 - 2:37pm

    Those who eke out a living by farming on our upland areas deserve our support. We need a more strategic direction for our farming industry that looks to the future and its challenges such as climate change. Most farmers will adapt as long as there is sufficient warning and the job remains financially viable.

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