The Conservatives have published 'A New Age of Agriculture - Our Agenda for British Farming', a set of policies aimed at fostering a more productive, sustainable and competitive farming industry.
Nick Herbert, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, launched the document in a speech to the annual conference of the National Farmers' Union, and set out two major new proposals:
- The introduction of rules into the new national planning framework to prevent the development of the most fertile farmland, in all but exceptional circumstances
- Fundamental reform of the Rural Payments Agency, appointing the Minister for Farming as Chairman of its Management Board, to improve accountability, reduce costs and drive up performance
This new policy paper has five key aims: to enable increased production whilst protecting the environment, to promote fair competition, to reduce the burden of regulation, to further reform the Common Agricultural Policy, and to take action on animal disease.
And it sets out key Conservative pledges to:
- Commission within the first three months of taking office an industry-led review of all existing regulations with a view to reducing burdens without compromising standards
- Introduce legislation on country of origin labelling if a comprehensive voluntary agreement cannot be reached
- Ensure that all food served in Government departments meets British standards of production, wherever this can be delivered without increasing overall costs
Nick accused Labour of having "persistently under-valued British agriculture" and said that, in this new age of agriculture, "we need to strengthen the protection of our most fertile farmland and recognise its importance as a national resource for future generations."
Jim Paice, the Shadow Agriculture and Rural Affairs Minister, said that British farmers safeguard our food security, maintain the countryside and provide the raw materials for the UK's largest manufacturing sector, and he added:
"It is about time this was reflected by a government which understands the realities of farming and creates the conditions in which the industry can thrive."
You can read our planning green paper in the document viewer below, or alternatively click here to download a copy in PDF format.