Unfinished business: UK feed industry urges new Labour government to tie up loose ends on essential policy issues

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Adam Webb
© GettyImages/Adam Webb
UK feed and farming stakeholders are outlining their demands for the new Labour government.

The Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), representing 230 businesses in animal feed, crop protection, agronomy, fertiliser, grain trading, and seed sectors, welcomed Steve Reed MP as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) after the 2024 general election.

Reed, previously shadow Defra secretary, has been confirmed in Keir Starmer's cabinet following Labour's victory.

AIC's CEO, Robert Sheasby, highlighted the need for policy certainty; he identified unfinished issues from the previous government, including the National Action Plan for Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products, due diligence on forest risk commodities​, regulatory reforms in the Food Standards Agency (FSA), precision breeding legislation, and a land use framework strategy.

The trade grup supports the new government's commitment to improving trade agreements with the EU, particularly a functioning veterinary or Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) agreement, which could benefit the agricultural supply chain, he added.

Sheasby also called for a cohesive approach to food security with an independent committee for a cross-government strategy and a standardized approach to sustainability in food supply chains.

‘Reset moment’

National Farmers Union (NFU) president, Tom Bradshaw, sees this as a "reset moment" for British agriculture.

The farming organization aims to work with the government to achieve food security and business confidence. Bradshaw outlined the need for practical policies to boost farm business confidence and ensure affordable, climate-friendly, high-welfare food.

The NFU, he continued, advocates for an increased multi-year agriculture budget, transparent policy transitions, effective land management schemes, and promoting local food in the public sector. Other priorities include robust trade standards, water management, and disease control measures.

Bradshaw stressed the need for a £4bn (US$5.12bn) annual budget for England, with £2.7 billion for environmental goals, £615m for productivity, and £720m for economic stability, estimating a UK-wide budget of £5.6bn.

Disease threats

Following Labour's win, the National Pig Association (NPA) said it will continue to push hard on the key issues that matter for the pig sector.

NPA chief executive, Lizzie Wilson, highlighted ongoing challenges like African Swine Fever (ASF) and the need for fairness in the supply chain. The NPA's manifesto priorities include effective pig contract regulations, investing in biosecurity, and maintaining high animal health and welfare standards.

The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) introduced a manifesto ahead of the election urging government support for a sustainable egg industry.

BEIC chief executive, Gary Ford, recalled how, over the past few years, the industry has managed increased supply chain costs, avian influenza (AI) impacts, and import threats.

He said it was essential that the new govenment puts the conditions in place to ensure the industry is able to operate sustainably for the years to come.

The BEIC is calling for bans on certain egg imports, recognition of UK production costs in trade deals, stronger government-industry collaboration for environmental grants, adding key workers to the Skilled Worker visa list, and reforms to biosecurity resources and planning systems.

Workforce issues high on broiler industry agenda 

The British Poultry Council (PBC), which represents the broiler chicken industry, said the election results have presented a significant opportunity for "tangible change" within the British food production sector. 

In December 2023, the BPC launched its '2024 and Beyond' report, well ahead of the election results, outlining its broad ambitions and specific actions necessary to achieve those objectives.

Among its chief demands for Starmer's administration is the establishment of a SPS agreement with the EU, which the AIC is also calling for. 

It seeks collaboration with the Labour government to achieve several key goals, including effective management of AI, balancing animal welfare with environmental considerations, and securing a skilled and stable workforce.

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