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Labour Unveils Agriculture Plan Targeting Increased Use of British Produce in Public Institutions

Labour has announced a comprehensive plan to revitalise the UK's agricultural sector, focusing on enhancing food security and supporting British farmers.

The initiative, termed a "new deal for farmers," sets an ambitious target: ensuring that at least half of the food consumed in public institutions such as hospitals, schools, and prisons is sourced from within the UK.

This plan emerges in response to what Labour perceives as a neglect of the farming community under the Conservative government. A key component of the strategy is the pursuit of a new veterinary agreement with the EU.

This agreement aims to significantly reduce bureaucratic hurdles for British farmers by eliminating numerous checks on food and agricultural goods at ports. However, reaching such an agreement would require intricate and prolonged negotiations and might necessitate the UK adhering to EU standards for these goods.

Labour's critique of the Conservative government centres on what it terms the "destruction of our rural economy." The party's analysis indicates that since 2017, over 6,300 agricultural sector firms in the UK have ceased operations, including nearly 5,000 meat, fruit, vegetable, and dairy producers.

Additionally, there has been a 30% decrease in employment across agriculture, forestry, and fishing sectors.

While the detrimental impact of Brexit and its execution on competitiveness is acknowledged by many in these sectors, Labour's plan does not explicitly address the UK's departure from the EU. Instead, it focuses on the need for a veterinary deal, acknowledging that Brexit-induced barriers have played a role in the current challenges.

The plan encompasses five key elements, all previously proposed by Labour. These include the aforementioned target for British food in public institutions, the EU veterinary agreement, the introduction of GB Energy to provide cheaper power for farmers, support for farmers to feed surplus renewable energy into the grid, and the establishment of a flood resilience taskforce.

Steve Reed, the shadow environment, food and rural affairs secretary, emphasised Labour's commitment to restoring the fortunes of British farmers. He criticised the Conservative government for its handling of the agricultural sector and outlined Labour's vision for a renewed national focus on the countryside, promising lower energy bills, reduced red tape, and greater support for British produce.

In contrast, Mark Spencer, the minister of state for food, farming and fisheries, defended the Conservative government's record, highlighting their efforts in providing targeted funding for farmers, protecting prime farmland, and improving grid connections.

He criticised Labour for lacking a concrete plan to support rural communities, referencing their previous governance failures in this area.


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