On 3rd March 2022, the Bishop of Exeter tabled a question on the government’s assessment of statements on challenges to farming raised by the National Farmers’ Union:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the remarks by Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union, on 23 February, about the challenges facing farming.
Lord Benyon (Con): My Lords, I declare my farming interests as set out in the register. Defra continues to actively engage with the farming industry to deliver the changes we are implementing to support a strong and thriving agricultural sector, including measures to support productivity, raise standards and deliver environmental public goods. The NFU president raised many interesting and wide-ranging points during her keynote conference speech on 22 February, and we welcome them as a constructive contribution to the ongoing debate on the future of our agricultural industry.
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: I thank the Minister for his reply. What assessment have Her Majesty’s Government made of our nation’s food security in the light of the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia, mindful of the fact that those two nations between them produce 30% of the world’s wheat? In anticipation of the loss of that harvest, the conflict will have a catastrophic impact. Does he agree that now is the moment for us to give active encouragement and increase support to our hard-working farmers as they try to guarantee our nation’s food supply, particularly given that household bills are going up?
Lord Benyon: The right reverend Prelate makes some good points. It is now a requirement under the Agriculture Act for the Government to publish where we are on food security in this country, which we did a few weeks ago. It shows that the position has been more or less static for at least two decades, and we want to make sure that we increase the amount of food that we produce locally. It is obviously too early to say what the impact will be on wheat imports as a result of the conflict in Ukraine, but we want to make sure that we are working with other departments so that we are as prepared as possible and that the market is able to adjust itself.
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