It has been a difficult year for farmers. Harvesting corn in such wet conditions is challenging, with farmers having to weigh the risk of letting the crop sprout in the field against spending vast amounts of money on fuel to dry it in the barn. Meanwhile the volatility of the commodity market means that the wholesale price of milk is now just over 35p per litre, having dropped from previous highs of over 50p towards the end of 2022, and the price of wheat is now below £200 per ton, having been a little over £380 in 2022. I come from a farming background myself, and I can see all too well the challenges that the farming industry currently faces.
The Labour Party has always been perceived to have a difficult relationship with rural communities, in part perhaps due to our traditional urban voter base. Yet, at the Royal Welsh Show and at the Pembrokeshire County Show I spoke with many farmers, as well as the Farmers’ Union of Wales and the National Farmers’ Union. Yes, the talks were robust – particularly on the issue of the new 10% tree cover requirements – but there was an acceptance that the Sustainable Farming Scheme had been arrived at following a positive and collaborative journey between the Welsh Government and farmers. The Welsh Government are serious about tackling the issues the farming industry faces – last month for example it awarded a contract to explore new measures to tackle the spread of bovine tuberculosis across Pembrokeshire. It is an exciting time to see that partnership between the Welsh Government and the farming community in action, working to achieve sustainable food production while protecting our natural environment.
The collaborative approach taken by the Welsh Labour Government sits in stark contrast to the approach taken by the Tory Government in Westminster. Their reckless approach to the farming industry is staggering. They have concluded a trade deal with Australia that has been predicted to cost the farming and food industry around £300 million, they have made Welsh lamb uncompetitive, they have bartered away our high food standards, and they have facilitated a tight labour market that is crippling the economy. Their approach to Europe also seems to be driven by pure ideology rather than any pragmatism, with no understanding that distance does matter when it comes to trading in an increasingly uncertain world.
A UK Labour Government will change this and will be on the side of farmers. We want to remove export barriers, have food standards that we can be proud of, encourage people to buy more British food, and move to a labour model with improved pay and conditions that does not leave food rotting in our fields. We will rebuild the UK’s relationship with Europe with the needs of our farming community at its heart, including a new veterinary agreement for agri-products. Finally, as Keir Starmer said in his speech to the NFU, the commitment to food production and the farming industry will be backed by £1.2 billion of public money to be spent on food that is locally produced and sustainable.
There is no doubt these are challenging times, but Labour is here to listen and to work with the farming community to achieve a fairer, greener, and more dynamic future.
You can read the full article in the Pembrokeshire Herald on page here