Andrea Leadsom has taken up the role following the Government’s Cabinet reshuffle brought about by new Prime Minister Theresa May.
President Meurig Raymond pressed upon the new Secretary of State the importance of food and farming and its strategic relevance to the country.
Representing the farming sector that grows the raw ingredients for the UK’s food and drink industry worth £108 billion, and providing jobs for 3.9 million people, Mr Raymond outlined the work being done by the NFU to hold its largest consultation in living memory speaking with its 47,000 farmer and grower members.
The results will form the basis for its hopes for a future domestic agriculture policy and will be shared with the new Defra team.
“Discussions with the new Secretary of State have focused on how the NFU and the government could work together on preparing for Brexit and the development of a domestic agricultural policy,” said My Raymond.
“I aim to share our work with the Secretary of State as I hope it will be of great help to Defra as they develop future polices regarding the food and farming sector.
“I impressed on Mrs Leadsom the importance of the NFU and the farming industry working closely with Defra to get the best possible access to markets both in Europe and the rest of the world. We want to help shape a new domestic agricultural policy which is adapted to the needs of our farmers and food production which delivers public goods.
“We want to work together to put in place enablers for improved competitiveness including access to labour. In return the country will feel the benefits of a profitable, productive and innovative food and farming industry which is committed to delivering improvements in health, wealth and environment for the British people.
“With a shared vision in place that delivers for the economy, the environment and the British public, the NFU and UK government can, together, ensure that policies are in place so British farming and food production continues to be major part of the economy while at the same time increasing its capacity to deliver its fundamental objective - producing food for a growing population.”
Mr Raymond said he also outlined some of the immediate issues facing the industry, including the future of agri-environment schemes and tackling bovine TB.
He added: “I did raise a number of urgent issues with the Secretary of State that need addressing more immediately; the loss of labour post-Brexit could have a devastating impact on the horticulture industry – not only damaging the competitiveness of the sector but could also, in the most severe cases, lead to a loss of crops; we need a continuing commitment from government to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. As a matter of urgency, Defra needs to issue culling licences to farmers in those areas which Natural England have deemed fit to proceed, and we need clarity from government that agreements for thousands of farmers in Countryside Stewardship schemes will be honoured in full.”