Labour to pledge half of all public sector food to be local and sustainable

Labour is to pledge that 50% of all food bought by the public sector will be produced locally and sustainably.

Sir Keir Starmer is set to announce the target during a speech at the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) conference in Birmingham on Tuesday.

The Opposition leader wants to win over the rural community ahead of an upcoming general election next year by pledging to support British farmers.

He also wants to commit an extra 13,000 police and PCSOs, some of which are to be directed towards tackling an increase in rural crime.

“The next Labour government will commit to this: 50% of all food purchased by the public sector will be food produced locally and sustainably,” Sir Keir is to say.

“That is £1.2 billion of public money spent on quality food that is genuinely better for people’s health.

“And look – 50% is just the minimum. We will do everything to go beyond it. We will buy more cereals, more oilseed rape, more strawberries, more beef and more British apples.”

The pledge to protect rural communities from a rise in anti-social behaviour, fly-tipping and off-road biking comes after the party announced its plan to curb drug dealing in towns and cities by targeting hotspots with extra officers.

Sir Keir will also tell farmers that he wants to protect food standards while helping them to export produce to countries in the European Union.

“It has been obvious for a long time that the Tories have given up on farmers,” he is to say.

“Labour’s approach to trade will be very different – I can promise you that. We want to remove barriers to exporters, not put them up. We want to protect high British standards, not water them down.

“We are going to talk to our friends in the European Union, and we are going to seek a better trading relationship for British farming.”

Also to address the 1,500 delegates who will gather at the NFU conference are farming minister Mark Spencer and NFU president Minette Batters.

Ms Batters will call on the Government to support British farmers by addressing the problems of a warming climate and protecting the nation’s food security while boosting productivity.

She will say: “There are three key lessons we can take from this extraordinary year. As the global population continues to rise, and parts of the planet become less suited to producing the food we eat, we have an opportunity, and a duty, to get the best out of our maritime climate.

“Secondly, in the face of climate change, we should be unwavering in our commitment to achieving net zero and contributing to our energy security through on-farm renewables generation. And thirdly, we should never take our food security for granted.

“But the fact remains, volatility, uncertainty and instability are the greatest risks to farm businesses in England and Wales today.

“Critically, those consequences will be felt far beyond farming, they will be felt across the natural environment, and in struggling households across the country.”

Environment Secretary Therese Coffey is also due to address the conference on Wednesday.

Tanya Steele, WWF’s chief executive, said: “Our farmers need a stable climate, healthy soils, clean rivers and abundant nature – these are the foundations of our food security.

“We wholeheartedly support moves to prevent farmers being undermined by imports of food produced to lower standards and to put public money behind healthy and sustainable food.

“We urgently need both existing and future governments to incentivise farmers to move further and faster.

“Helping farmers steward their land well is critical to delivering our net-zero and nature targets.”