NFU president heralds challenges and opportunities

In a review of 2021, NFU president Minette Batters has looked back on the last 12 months and considered the coming year.

“We have marked the end of an extraordinary year,” Mrs Batters said. “The past 12 months have thrown everything at us, from a growing labour crisis to soaring input costs, all amidst the ongoing pandemic.

“But we have also seen incredible levels of public support for domestic food. Our farmers continue to be recognised as key workers – people who are helping to keep the country fed and watered throughout a really challenging time.

“We remain extremely grateful to everyone who has backed British farming and British food this year.”

Proud to produce
Mrs Batters said that British farmers are proud to produce some of the best food in the world, and with the right policy framework we can deliver so much more.

“We can drive the rural economy, enhance our natural environment, contribute to national net zero targets and care for our cherished countryside so it can be enjoyed by everyone, all while producing more home-grown, local food for shop shelves,” she said.

Potential to be a thriving sector
The next 12 months could lay the foundations for a thriving food and farming sector where we are competitive both at home and abroad, Mrs Batters said.

She added: “If ministers create an agriculture policy which has a resilient food supply chain at its heart, we have the potential to not only be the number one supplier of choice for UK households, but a firm favourite for markets around the world too.”

Feeding the nation
If British farming is to succeed, Mrs Batters said we need both our domestic agriculture policy and our trade policy to support our shared objectives of feeding the nation and exporting great British food overseas.

“British farmers stand ready to be part of global Britain but we will face a continued competitive disadvantage if we see more trade deals like the one with Australia in the coming months,” she said.

Committed to net zero
To tackle the global threat of climate change, British farmers are committed to reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 and contributing to the government’s national net zero targets.

Mrs Batters said: “With support through policies like the Environmental Land Management scheme, we can boost climate action on farms and increase biodiversity – all while increasing our production of quality, sustainable and affordable food.”

Profitable and resilient
This future all depends on farm businesses being profitable and resilient.

She added: “The extension of the Seasonal Worker visa route provides some certainty for growers of both edible and ornamental crops, who will be extremely relieved to have clarity over the future of the scheme for the next three years.

“But there are still crippling labour shortages and structural issues throughout the food supply chain that I want to continue working on with the government to address.”

Challenges and opportunities
Mrs Batters continued: “We cannot ignore the challenges of this year or we will miss the opportunities of the next one. The government needs to continue to take action to prevent a situation where British food is replaced by food imports – imports which could fall way below our own highly valued standards of animal welfare and environmental protection.

“2021 was an extraordinary year. I want 2022 to be extraordinary but for different reasons. Let it be the year the government gets serious about British food and delivers policies that enable British food and farming to thrive.”

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