The Liberal Democrats passed a motion at their Autumn Party Conference (September 25), calling for an extra £1billion per year to be added to the Environmental Land Management (ELM) budget.
Defra has said they have already committed to maintaining the £2.4billion annual farming budget, which is set to support farmers to become more productive and profitable.
And Lib Dem Sarah Dyke, MP for Somerton and Frome, has said instead of supporting farmers, the Conservatives are ‘driving them out of business and endangering their livelihoods’.
Ms Dyke, who comes from a farming background, has said her brother was forced to give up his dairy herd as it ‘wasn’t sustainable’ in the current climate.
“The Conservatives have failed to guarantee UK food standards in trade deals, undermining our farmers and risking their very livelihoods,” she said.
“They are cutting farmers’ existing payments before the new Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMs) is even ready.
“They have slashed business energy support and failed to class farmers as energy intensive businesses, depriving them of vital support.
“Meanwhile, farmers cannot access workers due to the government’s botched Brexit deal. In the first half of 2022, £60m worth of fruit and veg went to waste just because of workforce shortages.”
A Defra spokesperson added: “We recognise this has been an extremely difficult period for our farmers, and we’ve provided immediate support including with energy bills over the winter through the Energy Bills Relief Scheme, as well as measures to help with the impact of fertiliser shortages, and helping farmers with cashflow by paying Direct Payments in two instalments.”
Defra has also said they announced measures at the UK Fork Summit held at Downing Street in May 16, including: launching reviews into fairness in the horticulture and egg supply chains; confirming they won’t merge Grocery Code Adjudicator with the Competition and Markets Authority and cutting the red tape preventing them from repurposing farm buildings to use as shops etc.
The Liberal Democrats new policy, set to support the farming industry, focuses on nine key points:
- Extending free school meals to all children in primary education and to all secondary school pupils whose families receive univeral credit
- Raising the ELM budget by £1billion to help the transition to sustainable farming
- Funding and support for the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service
- Introducing a proper visa and seasonal worker system
- Rewarding farmers who reduce the use of costly imported and environmentally harmful artificial fertilisers
- Signing a veterinary and phytosanitary agreement with the EU as soon as possible, alongside mutual recognition and alignment on standards and quality to allow farmers trade with Europe easily
- Prevent the undercutting of UK farmers and fishers in international trade deals by mandating proper democratic scrutiny and accountability in trade deals
- Introducing a Research and Innovation Fund to support new and emerging technologies
- Providing local authorities with greater powers and resources to inspect and monitor food production
Ms Dyke added: “Farmers are at the heart of rural communities, they feed our nation, they are custodians of our landscapes.
“The Liberal Democrats are committed to supporting British farming to continue safeguarding our environment and producing the high quality food we all want for generations to come.”
To see the motion in full visit libdems.org.uk/conference/motions/autumn-2023/f28.