Labour government will leave farming industry ‘in tatters’, Tories claim

The Tories say Labour has failed to tackle livestock worries or to address planning for farm infrastructure
The Tories say Labour has failed to tackle livestock worries or to address planning for farm infrastructure - SolStock

A Labour government would “leave our farming industry in tatters”, the Tories have claimed as they say rural communities are being treated with “nothing but contempt”.

Sir Keir Starmer’s manifesto did not make any commitment to the agricultural budget, the Conservative Party has pointed out, nor does it make any concrete promises on food security.

The Tories said Labour has failed to tackle livestock worries or to address planning for farm infrastructure.

“The word rural isn’t even mentioned in the document,” a Tory campaign source said, adding that Labour’s manifesto is “written by Londoners for Londoners”.

Mark Spencer, the farming minister, said: “Labour’s manifesto has the potential to leave our farming industry in tatters. Keir Starmer has demonstrated that he doesn’t care about farmers, rural communities, domestic food security – or indeed anyone outside of his London bubble.

“I am both appalled and disgusted that he thinks it is acceptable to not pledge a single penny to agriculture when, at the end of the day, we Conservatives know that food security is national security. It’s the same old Labour, treating rural communities with nothing but contempt.”

A Tory campaign source said Labour's manifesto is 'written by Londoners for Londoners'
A Tory campaign source said Labour's manifesto is 'written by Londoners for Londoners' - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

He said the Conservatives have pledged to invest an extra £1 billion in the agricultural budget across the next parliament and to enshrine a commitment to food security in law.

The Tories have also pointed to Wales, where the Labour government has had a “fractious” relationship with farmers, and remarks by elected officials show that they would “throw farmers under the bus”.

The Welsh Government’s plans to mandate farmers to plant trees rather than grow food have triggered a number of protests in recent months, where Labour Senned Member Joyce Watson suggested that cattle farmers affected by TB should “find another business”.

The Labour manifesto promises to “work with farmers and scientists on measures to eradicate Bovine TB” to “end the ineffective badger cull”.

Victoria Vyvyan, the president of the Country Land and Business Association, said it appeared “strangely callous” of the party to favour the anti-badger cull lobby over the farmers who are forced to see their cattle killed when they become infected.

“To take the interests of the ‘stop the cull’ lobby, against the huge numbers that have to go through bovine slaughter, seems strangely callous about one part of the electorate,” she said.

Tom Bradshaw, the National Farmers Union president, said that when it comes to party manifestos, the “single most vital element” for their members is the agricultural budget.

“This isn’t just ‘money for farmers’, it’s the funding which helps the sector transition away from the old EU system, allows farm businesses to invest for the future and makes governments’ aims around sustainable food production, food security, the environment and net zero possible,” he said.

“It’s funding to help underpin the UK’s largest manufacturing sector – food and drink – which contributes more than £128 billion to the national economy and provides jobs for four million people.”

Mr Bradshaw added that the language about Bovine TB in Labour’s manifesto is “incredibly unhelpful”.

He said: “It disregards the latest science showing a 56 per cent decline in this awful disease – which we should remember kills thousands of cattle a year – and disrespects the incredible efforts our members have made to try and deliver TB eradication by 2038.”

A Labour spokesman said that while the Tories have “abandoned” rural communities, Sir Keir has a multi-point plan to regenerate them by tackling crime, economic growth and investing in the NHS.

They added: “Working families in rural communities face low pay, rising poverty and the highest tax burden in 70 years. Farmers are locked behind unnecessary trade barriers blocking the export of high-quality produce and face skyrocketing energy prices forcing thousands out of business. Labour’s plan to give rural communities their future back is embedded throughout our manifesto.”

The spokesman said that although it is not in the manifesto, Labour has previously committed to tackling livestock worries. They said the planning section of their manifesto applies to rural infrastructure as well, and added that the badger cull would not end “overnight” but would be after a package of measures has been established to replace it.