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NFU deputy president calls for food security commitment and action on flooding during talks with Farming Minister in Staffordshire

The National Farmers' Union's deputy president called for a food security commitment and action on flooding during talks with the Farming Minister in Staffordshire.

NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw

Tom Bradshaw was with Defra Minister of State Mark Spencer at the English Winter Fair, held at the Staffordshire County Showground yesterday, for an NFU member meeting.

The NFU deputy president called for immediate action over watercourse maintenance and flood defence improvements saying it would show the minister was committed to the nation’s food security.

Large parts of the country are still feeling the impact of Storm Babet and Storm Ciaran with damage to homes and businesses and thousands of acres of winter crops underwater or lying in saturated ground.

Mr Bradshaw said: “I pushed the minister for a clear commitment on our food security as during the meeting he highlighted various risks to domestic food supply.

Jeremy Lowe, Mark Spencer, Theo Clarke and Tom Bradshaw

“He singled out competition for land use, animal disease and climate change as risks, so I called on him to put policies in place to support British food production and safeguard supply.

“I called for a commitment on watercourse maintenance and our failing flood defences as that would be an achievable solution to protect productive farmland.

“Around 50 per cent of our best food producing land is on the flood plain and action on flood defence would demonstrate a commitment to our family farms and our food security.”

During the meeting, chaired by NFU Mid Staffordshire group secretary Ed Stubbs, around 20 farmers discussed a host of issues including seasonal labour, High Speed Rail (HS2), bovine TB, and supply chain fairness, among others.

Government support for farmers for protecting and maintaining the environment through sustainable farming practices was also raised with concerns that the allocation of money for ‘public goods’ was far too ‘scattergun in its approach’ and still unclear in parts.

The NFU has asked the government to work to bridge the massive financial black hole in farm support caused by problems with the changeover in support schemes from the old Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) to the new Sustainable Farm Incentive (SFI).

Jeremy Lowe, NFU Staffordshire county adviser, said members who were not at the meeting had been able to speak to Mr Bradshaw ahead of it and he had put their points to the minister, particularly on the continued ‘chaos, uncertainty and disruption’ caused to farm business by HS2.

Mr Lowe thanked Stafford MP Theo Clarke for helping to set up the meeting with the minister and said it was important that NFU members were able to discuss real grassroots issues with such senior politicians.

“Our farmers and growers are producing quality food to feed the nation in the face of unprecedented challenges, including extremes in weather, a cost of living crisis, huge agricultural inflation and imbalance in the supply chain,” he said.

“The minister listened to members’ concerns and the NFU will continue to push for action for all sectors to ensure our farms are able to meet the many food production and environmental demands that they face.”

Earlier in the day Mr Bradshaw addressed the huge crowds that attended the livestock event from the show ring where he highlighted some of the NFU’s work to benefit members’ farms.

The English Winter Fair is a two-day prime stock show that attracts some of the finest cattle, sheep and pigs in the country.

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