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Industry leaders say the government must implement its food strategy in full – praising the document for recognising the importance of farming. Food strategy must be fully implemented – farm leaders

• Importance of farming recognised

• Plan to maintain production levels

• Food security to protect economy

Industry leaders say the government must implement its food strategy in full – praising the document for recognising the importance of farming.

Published last month, the strategy sets out the government’s approach to food and farming – including the challenges posed by the war in Ukraine and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global economy.

It pledges to support farmers by helping to increase domestic production. This includes plans to strengthen the resilience of food supply chains and food security to help protect against future economic shocks and crises.

NFU president Minette Batters said: “The strategy represents a clear milestone. The government is recognising the importance of domestic food production, maintaining our productive capacity and growing more food in this country.”

Farmers stood ready to produce high quality and climate-friendly food while protecting and enhancing the environment, said Ms Batters. “Food production will always be core to a nation’s resilience and I’m pleased the government has recognised this.”

And she  added: “Domestic food production and environmental delivery go hand-in-hand and we are proud that British farmers have an ambition to reach net zero by 2040, while still maintaining our current levels of food production.

“We now need to see this strategy develop into clear delivery and investment to capitalise on the benefits food and farming delivers for the country, such as our world-leading standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety.”

The strategy was published following recommendations contained in Henry Dimbleby’s 2021 review of the UK’s food system. As well as farming, it covered diets, inequality, nature, food and climate, and the complexities of meat, food security and trade.

Lacking detail

Mr Dimbleby said Defra’s policy document lacked enough detail to be called a strategy – although it did contain plans to implement more than 50% of his recommendations. He had called on ministers to guarantee payments to farmers until 2029, but this was not forthcoming.

Country Land and Business Association president Mark Tufnell said it was encouraging that the strategy had a significant focus on agriculture. But it was unclear how it would be implemented, with out details of the required funding.

Steps in the right direction included 50% of public sector food to come from local producers or certified to higher standards, funding for horticulture, regenerative farming and the development of alternative proteins. 

Mr Tufnell added: “There are issues which must be tackled in the short term, however. Domestic food security, fairness in the supply chain and workforce issues are key areas which need to be addressed immediately.”

Plan to ‘broadly maintain’ domestic production

The government’s food strategy commits to broadly maintaining current domestic production levels – and boosting production in sectors such as horticulture and seafood.

It pledges £270m for farming innovation by 2029, saying it will unlock technologies to drive sustainable farming techniques. In turn, this will help increase productivity and profitability and the sector’s long-term resilience.

The strategy also sets out plans to create a new professional body for the farming and growing industry to step up professional training and develop clear career pathways, equipping people and businesses with the skills needed to run sustainable and profitable businesses.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said: “Our food strategy sets out a blueprint for how we will back farmers, boost British industry and help protect people against the impacts of future economic shocks by safeguarding our food security.

“Harnessing new technologies and innovation, we will grow and eat more of our own food – unlocking jobs across the country and growing the economy, which in turn will ultimately help to reduce pressure on prices.”