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Food and farming will be a key theme at the ballot box

Toby Lea / NFU

Minette Batters, NFU President

Minette Batters, NFU President | National Farmers' Union

4 min read Partner content

As a general election looms, NFU President Minette Batters highlights the importance of food and farming for voters and outlines how political parties can support British food in upcoming manifestos

There is often the assumption that life in the countryside is far removed from the debates and battles within Westminster, but the past few years have shown that they’re more closely linked than people might think.

Because amid the rolling hills and charming patchwork that is the British countryside, there are farmers and growers facing some of the biggest challenges of their lifetime and, like many of us, they are struggling to make ends meet.

Multiple times over the past few years, these challenges have spilled over into the public consciousness as supermarkets have been unable at times to keep shelves full. Whether it’s been global volatility hiking up production costs, supply chain issues, climate change leaving farms flooded, or uncertainty from the biggest shake up in agricultural policy since 1947 – it’s British families at the sharp end of a failing food system.

It is clear that food and farming matters a great deal to people all across the country. Because food is a vital part of all our lives, no matter if you live in the rural sticks of North Yorkshire or the hustle and bustle of London – we can’t live without it.

New research shows that 82% of people want to see targets to increase British food production, and 66% of people say that parties’ plans on farming will be one of the issues that affects who they vote for at the next general election.

With food bills still high, there is an unmistakeable demand for the new government, whatever party may lead it, to provide much greater support for home-grown food production. And our data shows it will influence who people vote for at the ballot box.

That’s why, through our newly launched manifesto, Britain’s farmers and growers are calling on the next government to act by recognising the valuable contribution British farming makes to this country – a sector that underpins the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, food and drink, which delivers £128 billion to our economy and responsible for employing more than 4 million people.

Just as the government has rightly legislated for targets on the environment, green energy and climate change, the same target-led ambition and commitment must now be shown for British food. In fact, our research shows that 84% of people think food production targets are either as important or more important than environmental targets for farming.

What’s more, with the right policies, farming has the potential to provide solutions on areas of national and global concern, like environmental protection, climate change and UK food security.

As someone who has worked in the sector for 40 years and had the privilege of representing 46,000 farmers and growers for more than 10 years as an NFU officeholder, six of those years as its President, I know British farmers want to deliver all they can for the nation.

This includes playing our part in tackling the climate crisis and boosting nature – many of us are already working to reduce emissions, deliver green energy, provide public access, create habitats for wildlife, and benefit soil health and water quality alongside our primary roles as food producers.

We want to do more and for that we need practical and progressive policies which give farmers the confidence to invest in their businesses. Because investing in farming also means investing in Britain’s food, our economy, environment, and communities.

This can also come through investment in rural areas more generally. The people who live and work in the countryside, like our farmers, often feel like they are last on the priority list when it comes to providing affordable homes, efficient transport and fit for purpose digital infrastructure. Creating policy through the lens of food security would help to shift this perception and show that those in power do take the rural vote, and our food production, seriously.

What’s clear is that British farming is connected to, and has the potential to help resolve, many of the key issues that are likely to be debated ahead of the general election. And a government backing British farming will enable us to continue farming for Britain’s future.

That was the message as we hosted MPs from across all political parties in Parliament last week and will be front and centre of all our conversations in Westminster in the coming months. As parties work on their own manifestos, I urge them not to overlook the importance of food and farming – not only for voters but for the vision we all share of a thriving, sustainable Britain.

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