A grant scheme of unprecedented size is being offered to English farmers in response to concerns about food security.

Estimated read time 4 min read

Rishi Sunak will promise farmers the “largest ever” grant scheme tomorrow, as well as the creation of a food security index, after criticism that Brexit trade deals and poor responses to flooding and rising costs have put England’s ability to feed itself at risk.

In the midst of chaos within the farming industry, as British and European farmers protest with tractors against environmental rules and a perceived lack of aid, Sunak is set to address their demands for a guarantee from the government that the UK’s food self-sufficiency will either stay at or surpass the current estimate of 60%.

There are concerns that the effects of Brexit, such as the implementation of farming programs that prioritize nature over food production and trade agreements that have been criticized for disadvantaging British farmers, will decrease food security.

At the National Farmers’ Union event in Birmingham, Chancellor Sunak will be speaking and answering questions from outgoing president Minette Batters. He will also be revealing a record-breaking grant of £427m for farmers in England, including a never-before-seen amount of funding for technology and productivity initiatives.

After the Guardian revealed that the government had not spent a significant portion of its farming budget due to land managers not participating in the new post-Brexit farming schemes, which aim to promote environmental stewardship, a Food Security Index will be released at the upcoming Farm to Fork summit this season. This index will provide essential data to track and assess the UK’s food security status.

Batters has expressed strong disapproval of the farming policies implemented after Brexit and has accused the government of not keeping their word. Prior to the conference, she stated, “There were three promises made. The easiest trade deal with the EU in history – which is still a challenge and being worked on. Reducing regulations – but it seems like we have more now. And more funds since we will no longer be contributing to Europe – but we haven’t seen any evidence of that yet.”

She stated that farmers are currently dealing with a constantly changing landscape, with shifts in agriculture and increasing expenses jeopardizing food security. She also expressed concern that farming is being solely utilized for meeting environmental objectives, but emphasized the importance of balancing both priorities.

Blue tractor being driven along a road in Dover in the rain; it has a sign on its front reading ‘Back British Farmers’View image in fullscreen

This past weekend, a group of 30 farmers left their tractors at a supermarket parking lot in Dover. In addition, 100 Welsh farmers parked outside a Labour leadership debate to protest against the Welsh government’s proposal to require them to plant 10% of their land with trees. Farmers in Europe have also been protesting by blocking major cities such as Paris and Brussels, in response to new environmental regulations set by the EU.

At last year’s NFU conference, the previous environment secretary, Thérèse Coffey, declined to implement regulations on the egg supply chain despite shortages on supermarket shelves and the closure of egg farms due to increasing expenses. Her dismissal of the possibility of a “market failure” was met with disapproval from farmers.

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Sunak is anticipated to declare a revised policy that focuses on fair treatment for farmers and producers. New guidelines will be implemented for the egg industry to guarantee that they have just and transparent agreements with supermarkets and other members of the supply chain. These regulations are expected to be enforced later this year for the dairy and pig sectors as well.

He stated that farming is currently undergoing a significant transformation, but the significance of farmers will always remain constant. The government is committed to supporting farmers through this change and acknowledges the challenges they face, such as rising global prices for resources like fuel and fertiliser. Efforts have been made to reduce inflation from 11.1% to 4% and to increase payments in farming programs by an average of 10%.

Farmers are leading the way in implementing new ideas and techniques, such as gene editing to improve disease resistance and automation to aid in crop harvesting. Despite our ability to have access to high-quality food throughout the year, recent global events, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have highlighted the importance of food security. We must not become complacent about our food security. Our government has a plan in place to support British farming, and we are taking further steps today to strengthen it.

Source: theguardian.com

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