Exclusive: "We'll kickstart rural growth" - What did Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer promise for farming?

Labour party leader Sir Keir Starmer writes exclusively for Farmers Guardian outlining what his party will do for farming

clock • 3 min read
Exclusive: "We'll kickstart rural growth" - What did Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer promise for farming?

My first ever job was on a farm. I was about 14 years-old, growing up on the Surrey-Kent border, and you could make decent pocket money clearing stones from the fields for local farmers. I loved growing up there. Surrounded by rolling pastures, you could play football, quite literally, until the cows came home.

And whether it's holidaying in my mum's favourite corner of the country, the Lake District, or having tea and cake at Minette Batters' farm on a brisk autumn morning, that freedom and open space always takes me back to my youth.

'Farmers are not listened to' 

I remembered that feeling when I visited Rupert's farm near Solihull last year. Rupert grew cereal crops and had a herd of beef cattle. One of the things he said to me has really stayed with me ever since - he said that sometimes it feels like farmers are not listened to.

That stuck, because respect is so important to me.

But over the past fourteen years, that sense of respect for people has been eroded by a government that has often done things to people rather than worked with them.

Rural communities

Decisions are made by people who live miles away from the people those decisions affect, with little understanding of the challenges people face.

This is particularly true in rural communities.

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When I visited Cawood in Yorkshire, for example, people there told me about the problems with antisocial behaviour and fly-tipping. They explained that the only police station was miles away, on the other side of the county.

Or take mental health. Farming has the highest levels of mental ill health of any sector. Shockingly, one farmer or agriculture worker takes their own life every week.

'No-one works harder than our farmers'

My changed Labour Party is back in the service of working people. And I know full well that no-one works harder than our farmers. So we have a plan - to support farmers, respect rural communities and boost agricultural industries.

That plan starts with first steps towards economic stability, more police in our communities, Great British Energy, more NHS appointments, secure borders, and the teachers we need in our children's schools.

Trade

So we'll kickstart rural growth, with a new deal for farmers to boost Britain's food security. We'll seek a veterinary agreement with the EU to cut red tape and get food exports moving.

And we'll back British produce, with a target that 50 per cent of food in hospitals, army bases and prisons will be local or produced to high environmental standards.

READ NOW: Farming budget will increase by £1 billion - Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unveils Conservative party manifesto

We'll set up a new COBRA-style Flood Resilience Taskforce, to protect land, rural homes, and businesses from flooding. We'll protect our natural environment, plant more trees and nurture nature rich habitats.

Rural crime strategy

A new British Infrastructure Council will get investment in rural areas, with broadband rolled out across rural communities.

We'll introduce the first Rural Crime Strategy and put 13,000 more neighbourhood police in your community to crack down on behaviour that too often goes unpunished.

Rural health

We will slash NHS waiting lists, with 40,000 extra appointments each week, 8,500 more mental health professionals and a Young Futures mental health hub for under 25s in every rural community.

Finally, we'll give young people in rural communities the opportunities they deserve and safeguard the future of farming in the process.

Jobs and employment

We'll boost employment skills with a new Apprenticeship Levy, so agricultural businesses can upskill their workforce.

READ ALSO: Tackling the anti-farming agenda, the Rock Review and supply chain fairness - What does the next Government need to deliver for tenant farmers?

We'll open specialist Technical Excellence Colleges, so rural communities can get the skills they need - from land management to sustain farming businesses, to technical skills in manufacturing that'll turbo-charge rural factories. And we'll make sure young people can get good, well-paid jobs for decades to come.

My Labour Party will always listen to farmers and rural communities.

Together, on July 4th, we can stop the chaos, turn the page, and start to rebuild our country.

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