'Clock is ticking' to support farmers, NFU president warns

The NFU president will urge the government to boost the industry's productivity, protect the environment and manage volatility
The NFU president will urge the government to boost the industry's productivity, protect the environment and manage volatility

The NFU's president will warn that 'the clock is ticking' to support British farmers impacted by rising costs, worker shortages, the bird flu crisis and post-Brexit changes to support.

Speaking at the opening day of the NFU Conference on Tuesday (21 February), Minette Batters will warn that "volatility, uncertainty and instability" are impacting farming businesses.

"Critically, those consequences will be felt far beyond farming, they will be felt across the natural environment, and in struggling households across the country," she will say.

Labour shortages and soaring energy prices are currently hitting most farming sectors, particularly for poultry farmers, which is already reeling from the UK's largest bird flu outbreak.

Meanwhile, other sectors are facing an uncertain future as direct payments are phased out against a backdrop of cost inflation, with agricultural inputs having risen almost 50% since 2019.

Mrs Batters will warn: "And the impact of this? UK egg production has fallen to its lowest level in nine years. In 2022, UK egg packers packed almost a billion fewer eggs than they did in 2019."

The NFU president will also use her opening speech to highlight the impact of climate change on farming, following 'extraordinary temperatures' in July 2022 which topped the previous record by almost a degree and a half.

"While many parts of the country have experienced huge amounts of rainfall recently, impacting farming operations over autumn and winter, some counties still remain in official drought status," she will say.

“Despite all this, NFU members and the farmers and growers of Britain continued to bring in the harvest, to produce the nation’s food and to keep the country fed through tough times."

Mrs Batters will go on to warn that the 'time is nearly up' for the government to demonstrate its commitment to British food and farming.

"Not just by saying they support us, but by showing us they do. I won’t let the opposition off the hook either, I believe the rural vote will be crucial in the next election."

She will warn: “The clock is ticking. It’s ticking for those farmers and growers facing costs of production higher than the returns they get for their produce.

"It’s ticking for the country, as inflation remains stubbornly high, and the affordability and availability of food come under strain. It’s ticking for our planet, as climate change necessitates urgent, concerted action to reduce emissions and protect our environment.

"And it’s ticking for government – to start putting meaningful, tangible and effective meat on the bones of the commitments it has made."