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Conservative MPs back new manifesto to support British farmers and the environment

Today, the Conservative Environment Network - which has a caucus of over 150 parliamentarians - has launched its latest manifesto, Ploughing ahead, which outlines how the government can harness Brexit freedoms to fairly reward and encourage more sustainable farming.

Farmers play a unique and central role in Britain: they produce 60% of the food we eat, manage 71% of our country’s land area, and stitch rural communities and economies together. As we approach the two year anniversary of the Ukraine invasion, farmers' role in ensuring the UK’s food security - as well as looking after the UK’s environment - remains vital. 

But, farmers are facing new challenges from climate change and increased financial pressure. This manifesto puts forward pragmatic, conservative policies to empower and support farmers to adopt more environmental practices, thereby protecting the UK’s long-term food security, encouraging sustainable farming, and boosting biodiversity. 

The manifesto proposes four key areas for the government to address before the election and beyond: strengthening farmers’ finances to reward their stewardship of the natural world; building fairer food markets for sustainable produce; cutting planning red tape to help farmers go green; and boosting British agri-tech to improve productivity and reduce environmentally-harmful inputs.

Some of the key policy recommendations include: 

  • Restore the post-Brexit Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMs) budget in real terms to £2.8 billion, and, at the very least, index the budget to increases in inflation to support struggling farmers.

  • Abolish Inheritance Tax on farmland which is delivering benefits for nature as part of the ELMs or private nature markets through extending Agricultural Property Relief.

  • Conduct larger-scale supply chain reviews, including the role of food processors, to increase transparency and ensure smaller farmers get a fairer price for their produce at the farm gate.

  • Extend requirements to eliminate deforestation from the supply chain of products like beef and soya to financial services firms and their investments, and restrict imports of food products from deforested land.

  • Accelerate plans to extend permitted development rights to farmers wishing to convert farm buildings into shops selling their produce and extend permitted development rights to the construction of new slurry stores, medium-sized on-farm reservoirs, and small-scale glasshouses.

  • Remove restrictions on the use of drones outside of the line of sight and for the precision application of pesticides of crops.

The report has also been endorsed by 27 Conservative parliamentarians, including: Peter Aldous MP, Duncan Baker MP, Steve Brine MP, Sir Robert Buckland MP, Greg Clark MP, Elliot Colburn MP, Flick Drummond MP, Philip Dunne MP, Mark Garnier MP, Peter Gibson MP, Jo Gideon MP, James Gray MP, Damian Green MP, Trudy Harrison MP, Sally-Ann Hart MP, Sir Oliver Heald MP, Alicia Kearns MP, Pauline Latham MP, Tim Loughton MP, Anthony Mangnall MP, Jerome Mayhew MP, Selaine Saxby MP, Andrew Selous MP, Theresa Villiers MP, Lord Thomas Leicester, Lord David Blencathra, and Lord John Taylor.

Available for broadcast: 

  • Jordan Lee, Author of the Manifesto and Nature Programme Manager, Conservative Environment Network

  • Sam Hall, Director, Conservative Environment Network

Jordan Lee, Nature Programme Manager and Author of the Manifesto, commented: 

“Farmers keep the nation fed and look after our green and pleasant land. It is impossible to imagine our rural economies and communities without them. Conservatives have always understood this. We must not forget it now, as we rightly aim to strengthen food security and improve sustainability in the sector.  

“The ongoing protests across Europe show the importance of working with farmers, not against them. Outside of the EU, the UK is well-placed to support farmers on the road to net zero and avoid similar disruption. In this general election year, the government should look to seize this opportunity, secure the future of farming and the natural environment, and win over rural communities. 

“Ploughing Ahead is an ambitious, conservative plan to do just this through strengthening farmers’ finances, building fairer food markets, cutting planning red tape to help farmers go green, and boosting British agritech.” 

CEN MP James Gray, Member of the Environmental Audit Committee:

“This manifesto sets out a strong, conservative approach to supporting farmers as they transition to more sustainable ways of producing food. As conservatives, we know how important it is to conserve what past generations have given to us. Preserving and improving our natural inheritance for future generations to enjoy is in our political DNA. Farmers are the embodiment of this ideal through their stewardship of the natural environment. 

"This government has a strong track-record on using our post-Brexit freedoms to support farmers to farm sustainably. We should go further by abolishing Inheritance Tax for land which is delivering benefits for nature, as CEN’s manifesto proposes. Currently, agricultural property relief on inheritance tax only applies to agricultural land. This threatens to discourage farmers from using their land for promoting biodiversity and entering our post-Brexit farming schemes, whilst punishing those who are already boosting nature. The Chancellor should use the next Budget to announce this sensible tax cut which could deliver real benefits for our natural world."

CEN MP Duncan Baker, Member of the Environmental Audit Committee: 

“The illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine has heightened our awareness of the importance of food security. I’m pleased to support CEN’s manifesto therefore, which recognises farmers’ essential role as food producers and sets out policies to ensure they are rewarded fairly by the market for what they produce. 


“The manifesto's recommendations to add a ‘Buy British’ label to supermarkets’ websites and ensure country of origin is clearly labelled on produce are especially welcome. I believe that agriculture is the backbone of North Norfolk’s economy and culture. I am pleased that this will help empower and inform consumers, who naturally want to support British farmers and buy more locally, sustainably produced food.”

CEN MP Selaine Saxby, Member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, commented: 

“Farmers are vital to the food security of the nation. They bring rural communities together, underpin local economies, and are stewards of our rolling countryside. That is why I welcome the Conservative Environment Network’s manifesto for farmers and the environment. Too often, planning red tape ties farmers up when they are trying to do the right thing by the environment. Slow and bureaucratic planning rules can prevent them from opening new farm shops that would help more people to buy locally, sustainably produced food, for instance, or building modern slurry stores that can reduce water pollution.

"To tackle this, this manifesto rightly proposes the extension of permitted development rights for new small scale slurry stores, on farm reservoirs and glasshouses. Taken together, these reforms could play an important role in improving water quality, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and helping farming businesses thrive as they work to feed the nation."

CEN MP Alicia Kearns, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, commented: 

“The UK is rightly seen as a leader when it comes to the environmental standards of our food. Farmers every day go above and beyond to provide high quality food for us to enjoy, whilst also supporting rural economies and being guardians of the vast majority of Britain's natural world. It is why British consumers always want to support British farmers through buying local, sustainable produce.

“That is why I welcome this manifesto’s recommendations not only to support sustainable farming practices, but also to empower consumers to buy more British food. Encouraging supermarkets to add a ‘Buy British’ button as well as clearly labelling the country of origin of produce online are sensible, conservative measures which will help consumers make more sustainable buying decisions and support our farmers.”

CEN MP Pauline Latham, Vice-chair of the APPG for Markets, commented:

“For generations, farmers have passed down their knowledge of managing Britain’s green and pleasant land, brought rural communities together, and helped keep Britain fed. Their determination to take the land and knowledge previous generations have passed on, improve it, and pass it on to their children and grandchildren is one that conservatives should admire. We should support and encourage family-run farm businesses to take a long-term view of their land, including when they are investing in the foundations of food production like soil and water supply. 

“That is why I welcome this manifesto’s proposal to scrap Inheritance Tax for farmland which is delivering benefits for nature. It is right we allow inheritance tax relief for agricultural land, but the same relief should be extended to farmers adopting more sustainable practices and delivering local nature recovery through government schemes or private sector initiatives.”

Lydia Collas, Senior Policy Advisor, Green Alliance: 

“This manifesto includes important recommendations to target public money on farmland to where it will buy the most public good whilst safeguarding food supply. That means supporting greater change on the least productive land and not spreading the budget thin on measures that have little climate or nature benefit. At the same time, properly regulating carbon markets will be essential to ensuring farmers can access private capital and the public isn’t misled by unsubstantial carbon claims.”

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