British farmers are the best in the world and could play a big part in tackling the cost of living crisis, the leader of the Liberal Democrats has insisted.
Sir Ed Davey said the government must give farmers more financial support to help them produce more food for families and pensioners to put on the table.
“Farmers’ own input costs are up 60%,” says Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, while “government is slashing support payments,” he asks for the PM to meet with farmers
– BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) May 18, 2022
But he said the UK government was slashing their subsidies by as much as 50% at a time when the costs of feed, fertilizer and fuel were spiralling.
Defra secretary George Eustice later dismissed the claims as “absolute nonsense”.
“From Caithness to Cumbria, from Shropshire to Devon, farmers’ own input costs are spiralling upwards,” said Sir Ed, speaking during prime minister’s questions in parliament on Wednesday (18 May).
“Animal feed is up 60%. Fertilizer prices more than doubled. Yet instead of helping Britain’s farmers, the government is slashing the support payments that farmers rely on, sometimes for up to 50% of their income – even before a new scheme is in place. “
Sir Ed asked prime minister Boris Johnson if he would meet him and farm leaders to understand the extreme challenges farmers are facing, so they can “do their bit to help families and pensioners afford to put food on the table”.
Mr Johnson said he “recognized the challenges that farmers were facing with the costs of their inputs, in fuel and in fertilisers”, adding “that’s why we’re working so hard to abate those costs”.
Sir Ed mouthed: “How?”
Mr Johnson said the government was also championing British food through the food export market.
UK food and farming has “fantastic export markets around the world and now has 79 free trade deals to exploit, in a world avid for delicious, wholesome, nutritious UK food and drink”.
Mr Johnson said he would be “very happy” to organize the relevant meeting with Sir Ed.
The exchange generated a lively response on Twitter.
Defra secretary George Eustice posted his own video on the Conservative party’s Twitter page, in which he accused the Lib Dems of orchestrating “more desperate political games on farming”.
More desperate political games on farming from the Lib Dems today 👇 pic.twitter.com/BgyCYdx7Py
– Conservatives (@Conservatives) May 18, 2022
Mr Eustice said: “Today, Ed Davey made the ludicrous claim that we were cutting support for farmers without rolling out a new scheme.
“This is absolute nonsense. This government has pledged to give farmers the same in cash terms each and every year of this parliament.
“And as we reduce the old subsidies on land ownership, we are simultaneously rolling out new schemes to support our farmers to produce great food for the nation.”
South Lakes Lib Dem MP Tim Farron labeled Mr Eustice’s comments as “embarrassing rubbish and farmers know it”.
He tweeted: “Every farm has lost at least 5% of basic payment and will lose 20% this year, yet hardly any are getting anything at all from the new schemes. Farms are facing closure and Britain faces a food crisis while the Tories do nothing. “
Farmers questioned whether Sir Ed had been helped by former NFU deputy president and Hertfordshire farmer Stuart Roberts, who announced last month that he had become an adviser to the Lib Dems.
And farm lobby group Save British Food accused the prime minister of “trying to sell up the positives of his ruinous trade deals that will sink farming” and the Conservative government of treating farmers with “utter disdain”.