Meurig Raymond

NFU president Meurig Raymond 

The next government should introduce new country of origin labelling rules and press on with extending the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator to cover the farming sector, the NFU has urged.

Speaking as the union unveiled its general election policy paper yesterday (1 May), NFU president Meurig Raymond said the upcoming poll provided an opportunity for the farming sector to “impress on candidates of all colours the critical value of British farming to our economy, to our wellbeing and to our environment”.

The paper, titled The NFU 2017 Manifesto, set out five key policy challenges, which it would urge parliamentary candidates to adopt: namely making Brexit a success; investing for growth; safeguarding short, fair, and secure supply chains; placing science at the heart of policymaking; and caring for the countryside and rural communities.

Within these five key policies, the NFU said creating a “clear and honest country-of-origin labelling system” was essential for shoppers when making buying decisions, while creating a “fair supply chain” by extending GCA Christine Tacon’s remit would protect farmers from “unfair practices in the food chain”.

It also called on the future government to recognise established welfare standards when negotiating trade agreements with countries outside the EU, and to safeguard access to “a competent, reliable workforce”, in addition to a commitment to promote British food “at home and abroad”.

The paper demanded a guarantee that all central government departments purchase foods produced to British farm assurance standards (namely Red Tractor) where possible. “When we leave the EU in 2019, the UK government will be able to make far wider use of domestic products in all public procurement contracts,” it said.

“We can’t ignore that farming is arguably the most vulnerable sector in the Brexit negotiations. But the NFU has its sights fixed on solutions and policies to ensure a productive, profitable and progressive farming sector that puts safe, trusted, affordable and quality food on shoppers’ plates,” said Raymond.

“Over the next parliament, we want to work in partnership with the new government to achieve this with a predictable and manageable transition process. The nation needs a food and farming industry with a government strategy, it needs a safe food chain, and it needs a government that looks after the countryside and rural communities.”