Monday, May 29, 2017

Where’s the NFU pre-election farm campaign?

Where’s the NFU pre-election farm campaign?

Last week Theresa May did a major U-Turn. Her plans for elderly care, while clearly sensible in the eyes of many, including elderly home owners were going badly wrong and had been dubbed the ‘dementia tax’. The objectors won the day and so the PM, renowned for her tenacity, changed her policy. It was not worth the time and effort to tough out. The run up to polling day is a politically sensitive time when sectors dependent on government funding become vocal. There can, for example, be few hustings where health is not raised. Education, national security and care for the elderly are similar. If the promise is not in the manifesto the next best is to have one extracted on the Today programme.

Like health, the far sector relies on government funding, yet has remained strangely mute. It is also a sector that’s hugely affected by Brexit.  Half farm income comes from the EU. Sales of UK farm goods to the EU are protected. Brexit puts all these at risk.

Why has the NFU side-stepped the opportunity to force statements and decisions? Is their silence a reflection of their traditional loyalty to the Tories? Are they cowed by the fact that so many farmers voted to leave the EU? Farmers need to know the honest truth - is their £3.5 billion subsidy going to be reallocated elsewhere? 

Looking at the website you wouldn’t know there was a general election going on. 

The main Press Centre page - designed to provide journos searching for a farming story - carries the headline is ’NFU disappointment at another cut for dairy producers’; ‘NFU applauds Co-op’s move to back British farming’; ‘Farm income figures highlight volatility’. The only issue which farmers are urged to engage with their politicians is neonicotinoids and how a ban would affect their farm. Under ‘Campaigns’, their lead is Back British Farming, described as the NFU’s public facing campaign designed to build support and a “call to arms for the food and farming industry and government”. 

No mention of a General Election. Or that farming is the industry sector which is likely to see the greatest change post Brexit. Or to tell members the period before an election is the crucial time when political candidates are forced to listen, and respond. Days before polling cannot be wasted by lobbyists as well as candidates. Here is a time when farmers can seize the chance to get the conservative party to open up and provide some insight into their thinking about agriculture. The fact that farmers have remained largely mute allows politicians to interpret their silence as an admission they are happy with what has been said. Yet as we know, nothing has been said for farming post 2020. The PM remains tight lipped and there seems little progress in negotiations since the election was announced. 

There are not too many days to go. Farmers might have expected their representatives to have been less passive over this past month. Is there time for them to partly rectify this and make some demands as to the future of their industry?

There’s still time for farmers to make themselves vocal at election hustings. 

“What is the Tory/Labour/Lib Dem/Ukip farming policy?”  “Are you going to a member of the party which will hang farmers out to dry?”  “What’s your personal view of farm subsidy?” “farmers need answers that go beyond 2020 and have been given nothing by any of the parties contesting this election.” 

Please use 'comment' to say whether you agree or otherwise. 

Please forward to friends and colleagues


  1. Mark Sutcliffe3:36 pm

    Dead right Mike

  2. Anonymous10:47 am

    They've sneakily hidden the election content behind that large central banner on the homepage marked "General Election 2017 - read our Manifesto here"

  3. Nice and you are right Mike and its very fantastic

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