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Government unveils major package of farming and food sector support

A major package of measures to support farmers and grow the UK’s farming and food sector has been announced by the government today (Tuesday 14 May).

The package, unveiled at the Farm to Fork Summit hosted by the Prime Minister at Downing Street today, will support domestic food production, boost innovation in the sector supporting it to reach its economic potential, and recruit the next generation of farming and food leaders.

This includes a new Blueprint for Growing the UK Fruit and Vegetable Sector, setting out how industry and government can work together to increase domestic production and drive investment into this valuable sector which is worth more than £4 billion to the UK economy.

The plan involves:

  • Ensuring the sector has access to affordable and sustainable energy and water
  • Cutting planning red tape to make it easier and quicker to build glasshouses
  • New investment to boost innovation in the sector, where Defra will look to double to £80 million the amount of funding given to horticulture businesses when compared to the EU legacy Fruit and Vegetable Aid Scheme.

The Summit also saw publication of the first draft Food Security Index, setting out key data and trends to allow government and industry to safeguard the UK’s food security. This will allow us to monitor short-term trends across the UK.

In addition, the Government has set out how it will provide further support for farmers affected by the wet weather. Building on our commitment to extend the Farming Recovery Fund to support farmers who have been flooded, temporary adjustments will be made for farmers and land managers where the wet weather has led to difficulties carrying out the requirements of our Environmental Land Management Schemes. There will also be £75 million to support internal drainage boards (IDBs) to accelerate recovery from the winter 2023-24 storms and provide opportunities to modernise and upgrade assets that benefit and support resilience for farms and rural communities.

The government has also announced further action to ensure fairness across the food supply chain, committing to delivering regulations to improve fairness in the fresh produce and egg sectors.

The second annual Summit builds on the success of last year, bringing government and representatives from across the farming and food sector together at No.10 to help them work together and help it to grow.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said:

Food security is vital to our national security, which is why today’s summit is so important, bringing together government and key representatives from the farming and food sector at Downing Street.

Today’s announcements will turbocharge the growth of our horticultural sector supporting the building of cutting-edge glasshouses and innovative farming techniques to put British fruit and vegetables on our plates all-year round. 

We will continue to invest in and support farmers to produce the best of British food to strengthen our food security, championing innovation in the sector.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said:

This government will always back British farmers. Food production is the primary purpose of farming, and our farmers and food producers work hard to keep the nation fed, despite challenges including flooding.

Supporting our farmers and food producers is at the heart of our plans and we are committed to working with them. We are pressing on with our plan by investing in food security and resilient farming businesses, providing business advice and cutting unnecessary red tape.  

It is an exciting time and we are investing in innovation, ensuring the sector has the labour it needs, further embedding fairness in the supply chain, and making sure the sector is attracting the best and brightest.

Further Information

Growing a resilient food and drink sector

We have launched the Blueprint for Growing the UK Fruit and Vegetable Sector, setting out how industry and government can work together to increase domestic production support business growth and drive investment into this valuable sector – which is worth more than £4 billion to the UK economy. The blueprint covers:

  • Access to affordable, sustainable energy and water, considering the horticulture sector’s eligibility for decarbonisation, waste heat and clean energy incentives, and future developments in energy policy.
  • Cutting planning red tape to make it easier and quicker to build glasshouses, including a review of outstanding planning barriers, a commitment to reflect the importance of the Controlled Environment Horticulture sector in the new National Development Management Policies and National Planning Policy Framework, and a consultation on permitted development rights for small-scale single on-farm wind turbines.
  • Investing in success, including developing a new Horticulture Resilience & Growth Offer to replace the outdated EU retained scheme to ensure that all parts of the edible horticulture sector can benefit from Government funding. Defra will look to double to £80m the amount of funding given to horticulture businesses when compared to the EU legacy Fruit and Vegetable Aid Scheme which will be replaced from 2026 onwards. This will include making up to £10m available to help English orchard growers access equipment, technology and infrastructure to support the growing of great British fruit.
  • Building opportunity and adding value, including a commitment to introducing regulations to improve fairness in the fresh produce supply chain, work to explore support for long term cold storage of crops so the UK public can continue to enjoy our crops out of season, and launching on 31 May 2024 the £15 million Farm Gate Food Waste Fund to help industry ensure good food makes its way to people rather than going to animal feed or anaerobic digestion.
  • Growing skills and innovation and building on our response to the Independent Review into Labour Shortages in the Food Supply Chain, including, turbo-charging automation with increased support for packhouse automation of up to £50 million to boost productivity and help the sector accelerate away from a reliance on migrant labour, and improving the attractiveness of the sector to the domestic labour force. We are also making additional investment into our Genetic Improvement Networks to boost access to more resilient crop varieties.

We have set out how we will provide further support for farmers affected by wet weather, including:

  • Building on our commitment to extend the Farming Recovery Fund, we are making temporary adjustments for farmers and land managers where the wet weather has led to difficulties carrying out the requirements of our Environmental Land Management Schemes.
  • Providing £75 million to support internal drainage boards (IDBs). The EA will be sending the prospectus to all IDBs next week, inviting applications to the fund. They expect to start confirming the allocation of funding from June.
  • Continued Ministerial engagement with industry on wet weather impacts, bringing together government and representatives from across the farming industry to develop a shared understanding of risks and mitigations.

We will launch a new Endemics Disease Scheme with over £72m of funding and an Infrastructure Grant for Laying Hens with over £20m of funding as part of the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway. The Endemics Disease Scheme will help farmers Eradicate Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) in cattle, control Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) in pigs and tackle a range of different health conditions in sheep. Meanwhile the Laying Hen Housing for Health and Welfare Grant will offer grants of between £5,000 and £500,000 to help laying hen and pullet farmers to improve the health, welfare and productivity of their flocks.

We have announced £3 million in support for new and mobile abattoirs through the Farming Investment Fund. This builds on the Small Abattoir Fund which opened last year to boost the sustainability and efficiency of red meat and poultry smaller abattoirs across England.

Alongside funding already provided to the Farming Community Network, the Prime Minister announced at the NFU conference that we would provide £500,000 funding to charitable partners to deliver projects that support mental health in the farming sector. We are now pleased to announce that Lincolnshire Rural Support Network, YANA and The Farmer Network will benefit from this funding.

We have committed to laying a Statutory Instrument to introduce a mandatory scheme for sheep carcase classification and price reporting, and the use of automated classification systems for the sheep sector. This will ensure sheep producers are paid for their livestock at slaughter in a more consistent and transparent way based on the quality of the carcase, and will incentivise producers to improve productivity and better respond to the demands of the market.

Growing an innovative food and drink sector

This month applications will open for grants to support the development and adoption of novel techniques for improving nutrient management.

We are launching the latest round of Genetic Improvement Networks, supported by up to £15 million in funding over the next five years to boost breeding research for key UK crops. It will harness the opportunities of our recent Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act to help farmers and breeders produce stronger, more sustainable and resilient crops.

We have set out detail of how we will support the horticulture sector to increase the uptake of automation and robotics through our response to the Independent Review into Labour Shortages in the Food Supply Chain, reducing its reliance on migrant labour.

Growing a profitable and investible food and drink sector

Continuing our work to ensure fairness in the supply chain:

  • We have published the summary of responses to the reviews into fairness in the egg and fresh produce supply chains. In both cases, we will introduce regulations which will ensure that there are written agreements between producers and buyers. We will work with industry at pace on the regulations to ensure they deliver fairness to all parties.
  • We will introduce regulations to improve fairness in the pig sector as soon as possible. The regulations will bring stability and security to the pig supply chain through written contracts 

We can also confirm that Richard Thompson has been appointed as the Agricultural Supply Chain Adjudicator, who will oversee the enforcement of our Fair Dealing regulations.

Following a consultation, we will remove the 16-week derogation period for the labelling of free-range eggs produced by hens that are under mandatory housing orders due to avian influenza. This will mean that producers will no longer need to change how eggs are labelled during housing orders, saving farmers from costly labelling requirements.

We have delivered on our commitment at last year’s Farm to Fork Summit to make changes to permitted development rights to make it easier for farm businesses to diversify, with new changes set to come into effect on 21 May

We have continued to unlock trade barriers for UK companies. In 2023 we resolved agrifood barriers estimated to have a potential increase in exports of £1.4bn over 5 years. Defra have secured new market access for poultry meat and pork exports to Vietnam, an opportunity valued at around £25 million over five years.

We will cut red tape through a consultation to revoke and amend 60 pieces of food and drink retained EU law.

Growing the next generation

Delivering on a commitment we made in our response to the Rock Review into tenant farming and following a call for evidence, we can confirm that we will be appointing a Commissioner for the Tenant Farming Sector (CTFS) this autumn. The role will be a neutral and confidential advice for tenants, landlords and advisors who have concerns about poor behaviour and complaints that the Code of Practice on responsible conduct is not being followed. The CTFS will also investigate complaints to help resolve issues between landlords and tenants before they escalate to more formal dispute processes.

Notes to editors

The data on resolved barriers are extracted from the Digital Market Access Service (DMAS). DMAS is not a comprehensive repository of all market access issues facing UK exporters, and reporting rates vary widely across countries and regions.

£1.4bn is an aggregate figure for a sample of 15 agrifood barriers resolved in 2023. This figure is a subset of the aggregate figure for a sample of resolved barriers published by the DBT in February 2024 in the Brexit 4th anniversary update.

To calculate the aggregate figures, the mid-point for each valuation range is estimated over a five-year period and added to provide a central estimate. Further details on the methodology for the aggregate valuation figures are published in a DBT analytical working paper. In some cases, estimates may have been sourced externally from industry.

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