Steve Barclay: What the Conservatives will do for food and farming

Environment secretary Steve Barclay shares the Conservatives’ promises for food and farming, including inheritance tax, farming budget and food security.

Steve barclay

I am proud to be standing on a Conservative manifesto that recognises the importance of farmers and what they do. Meanwhile, Labour’s manifesto contains just 87 words on farming. In the words of Jeremy Clarkson, those words “when translated into English basically say: We hate you, you meat-eating rural halfwits”.

Rural areas contribute more than £250 billion to the economy in this country. In the midst of agricultural show season, I am reminded more than ever that the rural economy is vast and that our rural areas have so much potential.

The Conservative manifesto backs rural communities and businesses, farmers, and landowners. Labour’s manifesto has demonstrated that Keir Starmer just doesn’t get rural areas. Instead of supporting them, he intends to tax them – and tax them big.

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To pay for their £38 billion black hole, Labour will have to raise taxes. It will cost over £2,000 per working family. What Labour haven’t said are what other taxes they intend to hike. For example, we Conservatives have protected farmers from paying inheritance tax on their farms through Agricultural Property Relief, worth a total of £1 billion to farmers each year.  

Many farms also benefit from the Business Relief for inheritance tax, so scrapping these combined reliefs for farmers would mean the average UK farm could be faced with an inheritance tax bill of £600,000. That would be a ruinous sum for any farming family – and yet Labour have refused to rule it out.

Farmers have had to deal with exceptionally tough conditions in recent months with record levels of rain and prices still high after the war in Ukraine and covid led inflation to soar. Crucially, we have built the flexibility into our budget so we can support farmers with those challenges.  

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The Conservative manifesto has also pledged not just to maintain the current agricultural budget but increase it by £1 billion over the next Parliament. Meanwhile, the Labour Party hasn’t committed to a single penny for agriculture.

Their manifesto is worryingly light on food and farming. While the Conservatives will introduce a legally binding food security target, Labour doesn’t have a plan at all. Instead, they have pledged to triple the amount of solar power with no promise to protect good farmland, putting acres of valuable agriculture at risk. We have committed to protecting that high value land for food. 

In Wales, the only part of the country where Labour are in power, protests have been rife since the Welsh Labour government tried to impose top-down targets on the proportion of land farmers have to take out of food production – which will force thousands out of work. Rates of Bovine TB have soared, with farmers limited in the measures they’re permitted to use to stem the spread.

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We have made substantial progress cutting red tape for farmers, including for conversions of agricultural buildings to farm shops – nicknamed ‘the Clarkson clause’. But we must go further. It still takes too long to build the infrastructure that is crucial for our food security. Storage facilities, on-farm reservoirs and glasshouses are all an important part of resilient, profitable food production.  

A vote for the Conservatives is a vote to protect and enhance rural communities. A vote for anyone else will hand Keir Starmer a blank cheque. He doesn’t care about our rural way of life, and he would govern as a Londoner for other Londoners.

*All the main political parties were invited to share their vision for food and farming if elected, but other parties have not yet responded.

Read more politics news.

READ MORE: Labour manifesto: ‘Food security is national security’
READ MORE: Lib Dems promise an extra £1bn a year for ELMS
READ MORE: Reform UK releases ‘contract’ for 2024 election

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