NFU president meets new Defra secretary of state

NFU president Tom Bradshaw met with new Defra secretary of state Steve Reed MP on his first full day in office, where they discussed “key and immediate actions” that are needed to enable the British food and farming sector to thrive. 

NFU president Tom Bradshaw met with new Defra secretary of state Steve Reed MP on his first full day in office.
NFU president Tom Bradshaw met with new Defra secretary of state Steve Reed MP.

In the face-to-face meeting in Westminster, the NFU president congratulated the secretary of state on his appointment and said he looked forward to them working together to ensure Britain has a thriving food and farming sector.

Topics high on the agenda included the critical role of food security in delivering national security, the investment required for the future of farming and restrictions around planning policy. 

NFU president Tom Bradshaw said: “It was great to meet with the secretary of state today and put the importance of investing in the future of British agriculture directly to him.  

“With this big change in government, it’s crucial that the voices of our 46,000 farmer and grower members are heard loud and clear within the new Defra team. 

“Steve Reed has just outlined his plan for change, and it’s good to hear that food security, the environment and flood management are all focus areas. These now need to be underpinned by a budget that will enable the necessary investment. 

“Alongside these key areas, we’ll continue to work closely with Defra to provide policy solutions on issues such as bovine TB, the transition to ELMs, core standards for agri-food imports, the agricultural workforce, supply chain fairness, investment in infrastructure and flexibility in planning.” 

READ MORE: Steve Reed announced as new Defra secretary 

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Delivering food security

Tom and Mr Reed were also joined by newly appointed farming minister Daniel Zeichner who previously shadowed the role when Labour was in opposition.

Mr Bradshaw said: “We’ve known Daniel for several years now and have built up a really good relationship. We look forward to working with all of the team in Defra to deliver for you, our members on the ground, and for food security for the public.”

“I look forward to building on our strong engagement to date with Labour ministers to discuss essential policy solutions on key issues for our members.”

Modelling by the fully independent Andersons Centre, commissioned by the NFU, shows that an annual agriculture budget of around £4 billion is needed for England. Respecting the nature of devolved government, the NFU estimates this would translate to a UK-wide budget of around £5.6 billion.

READ MORE: Daniel Zeichner appointed as new farming minister

As well as the budget needed for farming, other urgent issues discussed today included ensuring the flood recovery fund delivers for affected farmers, early payment of de-linked BPS to aid essential cash-flow on farms, and improving the offer to farmers for SFI and wider environmental schemes to make sure there is a seamless transition that genuinely delivers for food production and the environment.

Two key areas are stocking densities in the uplands and rotational options that have become fixed options as well as payment rates within the legacy HLS schemes.

Writing on X, formerly Twitter, Mr Reed said “It is the privilege of my life to lead this department and serve our great country”, adding that “the work starts now”.

Secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs Steve Reed said: “I was delighted to meet Tom Bradshaw to discuss the government’s plans to give farmers their future back. Confidence amongst farmers is at record low. It is time for change.

“The government will offer a new deal for farmers to boost rural economic growth and strengthen Britain’s food security. We will cut energy bills by switching on GB Energy, protect farmers from being undercut in trade deals and use the government’s own purchasing power to back British produce.

“We are committed to supporting farmers and rural communities, and I look forward to working closely with Tom and the NFU throughout this Parliament.”

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Backbone of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector

As well as meeting with the Defra secretary of state and the farming minister, the NFU has also written to MPs and Cabinet ministers outlining the importance of British farming to the nation. 

The NFU underlined that the farming industry forms the backbone of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, food and drink, contributing more than £146 billion to the economy and employing more than four million people.  

The letters, one sent to all English and Welsh MPs and others to all Cabinet ministers in the context of their portfolios, set out the priority policies to support the nation’s shared ambition for food security and growth and will put British farming front and centre as MPs take their seats across Parliament.  

Mr Bradshaw added: “In an increasingly volatile world, the production of safe, sustainable and affordable homegrown food has to be high on the political agenda. It’s something that matters to everyone and every MP. 

“I urge all MPs, representing both urban and rural constituencies, to take us up on our offer of a local farm visit so they can hear first-hand about how investment in agriculture can benefit British families, British business and the great British countryside.” 

Read more political news.

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