Will new UK Prime Minister support agriculture?


The UK’s newly confirmed Prime Minister seems to be changing her perspectives on the importance of agriculture.

In the middle of an interview with the BBC yesterday, (Sunday, September 4), Liz Truss stressed her opposition to the development of solar farms on agricultural land.

When pushed on the subject, the new Conservative Party leader said she had no problem with solar panels being placed on the roofs of buildings, but felt that agricultural land should be maintained for food production purposes.

There followed a commitment of sorts on the need to make food self sufficiency a priority for a new government.

New Prime Minister

All of this seems to be at odds with Liz Truss, in her role as Foreign Secretary, pushing for free trade deals with the likes of Australia and New Zealand, two of the world’s agricultural superpowers.

And let’s not forget that the Conservative government of Boris Johnson committed to ending the principles that encapsulated the principles of the single payment support system.

Not surprisingly, this policy development went down like a lead weight with the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and other agri policy stakeholder bodies.

The coming days will, no doubt, see the new Prime Minister coming forward with a host of government interventions, all designed to tackle the energy and cost-of-living crisis that face households and businesses over the coming months.

It is rumoured that £100 billion is to be set aside as a means of funding a furlough-like programme that will directly support homes and businesses.

So, within this, will farming be identified as a sector with specific requirements?

UK agriculture

The fact is that agriculture in the UK is soon to be caught in a perfect storm. Farmers continue to face escalating cost pressures on all fronts – feed, fertiliser and energy.

We also know that consumers have reached the point when they can no longer pay more for food in the shops. The so-called ‘glass ceiling’ has been reached.

This fundamental reality was confirmed courtesy of a report produced by the Anderson’s Centre two weeks ago.

Much has been talked about families not being able to pay their energy bills this winter. But of equal importance is their ability to pay for the food that they need to eat.

Making this a reality may well take the introduction of a food subsidy scheme covering the basic food items produced in the UK: Dairy; beef; lamb; pork; poultry; vegetables; and fruit.

The support measure could be structured to compensate primary producers at the farm gate.

There is ample evidence to show that intervention at the earliest stage within a production chain has the largest impact on issues such as final price and inflation. 

But is Liz Truss up for such a move? The coming days will tell the story.

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