Farming Minister Mark Spencer has told the NFU conference he wants more local abattoirs and spoke about seasonal visas, about which the NFU has been lobbying.
“We have made an initial 45,000 visas available for seasonal workers to travel to the UK for up to six months – that’s 15,000 more than last year – with the possibility of 10,000 more, if we can show that they’re needed, and if we are able to look after those people properly while they’re here, give them a minimum of 32 hours of work every week, and pay them at least the national living wage, of £10.42 an hour.”
“The role farmers play in putting food on our tables as well as looking after our countryside is crucial. Sustainable food production depends on a healthy environment. The two go hand in hand.”
Spencer said that there were no abattoirs in his area of Nottinghamshire and he felt the lack of them. He said: “If farming is to flourish then we need to get the fundamentals right – abattoirs are key to the food supply chain and there is clearly a need to support smaller providers in this area.”
When challenged about why British meat was experiencing friction being exported to the EU, but the same was not true of goods coming in from Europe, Spencer said that checks were being made and some fraudulent meat had been stopped at the border.
Spencer said the government was opening up environmental schemes so that they can be part of every farm’s business plans as well as making inspections less punitive.
The minister announced £168 million of small grants to boost innovation, back food production, improve animal health and welfare all while protecting the environment.
The NFU welcomed news of the funding, which will be delivered through the FIP (Farming Innovation Programme), FIF (Farming Investment Fund), and ELMs (Environmental Land Management schemes).
Prime Minister addresses NFU Conference
At the start of the political session Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addressed delegates in a recorded video address.
“Thank you for your work to look after almost three-quarters of our countryside, thank you for protecting our natural heritage and thank you for the fantastic food you produce and we all enjoy.”
He said: “I know how important your work is and I know that it is more than just work, it’s a way of life that is passed down through the generations.
“So as Prime Minister, I want to make sure that you know that I am standing up for you, and that I will work day in and day out to ensure that you can continue to play your vital role in our country and our economy for many years to come.”