Liberal Democrats promise £1bn extra for English farmers

The Liberal Democrats have used the NFU Conference to slam the government’s record on everything from the level of food waste caused by staff shortages to the undercutting of farmers in the New Zealand and Australia trade deals.

Liberal Democrat Rural Affairs Spokesperson Tim Farron MP said, “From food waste to trade deals, this carousel of Conservative Prime Ministers have overlooked and undercut our British farmers who just deserve a fair deal.”

Mr Farron also promised £1bn of extra investment for English farmers if the Liberal Democrats win the coming general election.

“Rishi Sunak’s last-ditch attempt to woo the farmers he’s taken for granted stinks of desperation. It’s only the Liberal Democrats who have a real plan to support our farmers and rural communities and that starts with a £1bn investment so our farms can thrive.”

The Lib Dems outlined five areas in which they say the Conservatives have failed.

On food waste they say “In the first half of 2022, £60m worth of fruit and veg went to waste just because of workforce shortages.”

On recruitment they say “The Government’s ‘Seasonal Worker Visa’ scheme allows farms to recruit just 45,000 workers from abroad, when farmers say they need nearly double that – around 70,000.”

On pay they say “All farmers saw their Basic Payments Cut by at least 5% in December 2021 and may see more cuts due to the Government’s failed rollout of the new Environmental Land Management scheme not being fully implemented until 2028.”

On Defra budgets they say “Ministers promised by the end of this parliament to spend £2.4bn a year on agriculture. Defra figures show an underspend of £110m in 2021/22 and £117m in 2022/23, meaning £227m of promised funds have not been spent.”

And on trade deals they say “The Government voted against measures to have an impact assessment on the effect the Australia and New Zealand trade deals would have on farmers (Trade Bill Report Stage NC2), they also voted through the Australian and New Zealand trade deals while Lib Dems argued it had insufficient parliamentary oversight (Trade Bill: Third Reading).”

The Liberal Democrats are a challenger to the Conservatives in many rural communities. They won Parliamentary by-elections in former Conservative rural heartlands Shropshire and Somerset this Parliament and are set to target more as the General Election looms.

Speaking to farmers at the NFU Conference, Tim Farron said, “The UK government has an agricultural policy that actively dissuades people from producing food, this is utter and total madness.

“Look what we’re doing with landscape recovery. As a scheme we’ve tailored it to reward the new entrant, big corporate landlords; reward them for evicting and expelling the people who have worked their farms, tenants for generations. And in my community I see those people.

“What does it mean? A) It is morally wrong to expel families that have farmed valleys for generations B) It is utterly stupid to take that land out of food production – and yes, immoral and stupid, but sadly it feels in character with what the government has chosen to do so often, is to choose unfairness over fairness.”

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