General Election 2017
Date Published: 03/06/2017
The outcome of the upcoming general election will have some of the biggest implications for our food, farming and environmental systems for a generation.
From trade deals to research funding and access to labour, there are some major challenges ahead, and different approaches from each of the parties vying for your vote.
To help you make your decision on 8 June’s General Election, OF&G has created a handy guide to the main political parties’ policies on agriculture and the environment.
The Conservative Party
As part of its ‘huge ambitions’ for agriculture, the Conservatives have committed to funding farm support until 2022.
The party says it plans to work with industry and the devolved administrations to create ‘a new agri environment system’, and says it will produce a 25-year Environment Plan to chart how the environment can be improved as the country leaves the European Union.
As it delivers a smooth and orderly departure from the EU, the manifesto says the party will strike new EU trade deal which minimises barriers to trade, and secure new deals with other countries.
It also wants to help Natural England extend its technical advice to farmers as they deliver environmental improvements, and pledges to improve natural flood management and protect forests and woodland.
Other pledges include:
- Make CCTV recording in slaughter houses mandatory
- Control the export of live farm animals for slaughter
- Grant a free vote on fox hunting
- Enhance the provision of public services in rural areas
- Increase the decision-making powers of devolved administrations, but keep common frameworks in some areas to prevent erection of trade barriers in the UK
- Increase spending on research and development
- Develop the shale gas industry
The Labour Party
The Labour party has pledged to provide a clear, ambitious and sustainable vision for the future of UK food and farming, starting with a guarantee to end uncertainty by securing access to the EU market.
It says it won’t allow Brexit to be used as an excuse to undercut the country’s farmers and flood the market with cheap, inferior produce, and says it wants to reconfigure funds for farming to support smaller traders, local economies and sustainable practices.
As well as extending the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator, the party says it also wants to introduce a ‘rural-proofing’ process so that all laws and policies consider their impact on rural communities.
Other pledges include:
- Promote cruelty-free animal husbandry, as well as a consultation on ways to ensure better enforcement of agreed standards
- Ban neonicotinoids, ‘as soon as our EU relationship allows us’
- Stop the badger cull
- Establish a science innovation fund to work with farmers
- Reinstate the Agricultural Wages Board
- Keep the ban on fox hunting, deer hunting and hare coursing
- Reflect the ways rural councils deliver public services in funding allocation mechanisms
- Consider differences of rural areas in a re-evaluation of business rate schemes
- End Post Office closures and provide a ‘full range of banking services in every community’
- Invest in rural broadband, 4G extensions, housing and transport
- Invest in better flood management and give Fire and Rescue Services a statutory duty to respond to floods
- Defend and extend existing environmental protections
- Plant a million trees
The Liberal Democrats
Reforming farm payments to move away from direct subsidy towards support payments which pay for public goods is a key goal for the Lib Dems if they come into power.
Introducing a national food strategy to promote the production of healthy, sustainable and affordable food will also be high up on the party’s agenda.
In addition to extending the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator, the party will also ensure future trade deals require high safety, environmental and welfare standards for food imports.
Other pledges include:
- Encourage new entrants by championing different kinds of farm ownership, such as longer tenancies, share farming and community ownership.
- Update farm animal welfare codes and promote the responsible stewardship of antibiotic drugs
- Suspend the use of neonicotinoids until it is proven they don’t harm bees or other pollinators
- Develop safe, effective, humane, and evidence-based ways of controlling bovine TB, including by investing in vaccines
- Ban fracking
- Set legally-binding targets to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2040, and to zero by 2050
- Restore government support for solar PV and onshore wind
- Establish a £2bn flood prevention fund and improve existing flood defences
- Set legally binding natural capital targets on biodiversity, clean air and water
- Protect England’s lakes, rivers and wetlands through reform of water management standards
- Plant a tree for every UK citizen over the next decade
Plaid wants to push the UK government to maintain the existing levels of funding for agriculture, which includes the current level of direct payments.
It also wants the government to ensure that any trade deals are endorsed by each country in the UK before they are signed.
Other pledges include:
- Reform of the Red Meat Levy so that funding for Hybu Cig Cymru is maintained
- To update and consolidate wildlife legislation to create a new Wildlife Act for Waltes
- To adopt ambitious greenhouse fas and pollution reduction targets for 2030 and 2050 by introducing a new Climate Change Act
At the time of compiling this article the SNP, the Green Party and UKIP hadn’t yet published their General Election manifestos.
What does OF&G hope for?
What happens on 8 June at the General Election will have major implications for the country’s food, farming and environmental policies; not least because it will decide which party will lead the country out of the European Union.
As the certifier of more than 50% of the UK’s organic land, OF&G is committed to working which whichever party is in power following the General Election to ensure that organic farmers, growers and processors are given a fair voice in Brexit negotiations, and that the future of UK food and farming is properly considered.
Amidst those discussions we are keen to ensure a future government:
- Protects food standards
- Recognises the environmental benefits that UK agriculture provides, and protects farmers’ abilities to continue to provide those goods and services
- Makes arrangements to allow the UK (together with the devolved governments) to trade organic produce outside of our national borders
We’ll be keeping you updated on how we’re working towards those goals, but in the meantime if you want to share your thoughts on the direction future government policy should take, get in touch.
For further reading you may wish to look at OF&G policy papers –