In the approach to the General Election, the National Farmers’ Union claimed to understand what its members wanted, and what issues would swing the rural vote. And their opinion shouldn’t be taken lightly; Lord Heseltine has described the NFU as “one of the most effective pressure groups in the UK.”
NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “Food and farming provides 3.5 million jobs and £97 billion to the economy. The British public have made it clear that they want to buy more British food… Farmers are up for the challenge, but we need the support and commitment of government to back our industry so we can meet the challenges of feeding a rising population.”
Pre-election, the NFU were pleased to see some measures from their own manifesto included in those of the main political parties. Matt Ware, the NFU’s head of government and parliamentary affairs, welcomed the cross-party commitment to reducing red tape and rolling out nationwide broadband, and also the “unity between the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats for a longer term food growth plan or strategy.” However, he also wanted to see “short and medium term policies to assist agricultural business in a more immediate and tangible way.” Of particular concern was the Labour and Green Party’s intention to cancel pilot badger culls and the lack of detail in the Conservative and UKIP plans to exit the EU.
After an evaluation of the party manifestos, Mr Ware stated: “The manifesto that provides the closest match to the NFU’s is that of the Conservatives.” It’s no surprise, then, that the NFU president sounded upbeat after the election results were announced. “We welcome the fact the election has delivered a stable government and we hope this will mean that crucial farming issues are dealt with rapidly from the outset,” he said, while the NFU statement on the new government described their agenda for agriculture as ‘detailed and positive.’
NFU welcomes the new Government
‘What farming needs is what the Government wants to do: investing for growth, securing access to knowledge and technology, enhancing farmers’ ability to tackle animal and plant health, building safe and secure food chains and protecting key environmental assets,’ their post-election statement read.
However, in a Radio 4 interview Mr Raymond urged the Government to act quickly on time-sensitive issues, such as the badger cull and the Basic Payment Scheme, which he described as “chaotic at the moment,” speaking of the “huge concern within the farming community” that incorrectly completed BPS forms may lead to penalties.
He also spoke about his fears concerning the EU referendum. “From a farming perspective it’s so important that we’re part of that single market in Europe, particularly our livestock and cereals sectors… we will be urging the Secretary of State to go to Europe to try and take away some of that bureaucracy to de-regulate.”
The NFU have high hopes of the new Government. Will it live up to them?