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Labour blasted for having just 87 words on farming in manifesto


Furious farmers have hit out at Labour for having just 87 words on agriculture in their 131-page manifesto.

Steve Reed, Labour’s Shadow Defra Secretary, says Labour “will treat the countryside with respect”.

But farmers have accused Labour of doing the exact opposite.

They say would-be PM Sir Keir Starmer’s plan for the UK “disrespects” farmers and have accused him of being “out of touch” with rural communities.

Labour’s 23,000-word manifesto’s lack of an agricultural budget was described as “deeply disappointing” by National Farmers’ Union (NFU) President Tom Bradshaw.

He said: “There are plenty of positives across the three manifestos, and it’s clear that our constructive and open lobbying on many areas has been listened to.

“But the single most vital element is the agricultural budget.

“This isn’t just ‘money for farmers’, it’s the funding which helps the sector transition away from the old EU system, allows farm businesses to invest for the future and makes governments’ aims around sustainable food production, food security, the environment and net zero possible.

“It’s funding to help underpin the UK’s largest manufacturing sector – food and drink – which contributes more than £128billion to the national economy and provides jobs for four million people."

Part of the Labour manifesto described a UK-wide badger cull to drive down cases of bovine TB as “ineffective”.

However, data has shown a fall in the disease, which can devastate livestock and cause an economic crisis for cattle farmers.

Ross Cherrington, a Westcountry Rivers Trust farm adviser, said Labour was “out of touch” for claiming the UK badger cull was not working.

Dairy farmer in Cheshire Phil Latham said: “New herd incidence is down since TB started being tackled more holistically.

“Deer may be an issue in places too and they need to be incorporated into the plan, but why would you change the current winning strategy unless your motivation was anything other than disease control?

“Can Labour please define ‘ineffective’ for me?”

NFU President Mr Bradshaw also criticised the Labour Party’s apparent misunderstanding about the effectiveness of the badger cull.

He said: “The language around bovine TB in Labour's manifesto – in which they claim the badger cull has been ‘ineffective’ – is incredibly unhelpful.

“It disregards the latest science showing a 56% decline in this awful disease – which we should remember kills thousands of cattle a year – and disrespects the incredible efforts our members have made to try and deliver TB eradication by 2038.”

Veteran Sussex sheep farmers Di and Gardie Grissil fear for the future of their business under a Starmer-led administration.

Mrs Grissil said: “Labour’s manifesto proves what we feared all along: Sir Keir Starmer is not on the side of British farmers or people living in rural areas.”

Mr Grissil said: “Labour does not understand our needs or the problems we face - the future for rural communities under Starmer looks bleak.”

And young Welsh shepherdess Naomi Williams-Roberts, 30, said: “Whichever party comes into power has to value national food security alongside the quality of welfare that the UK agricultural sector provides.”

Meanwhile the Countryside Alliance have hit out at Labour for its proposed ban on trail hunting — a practice many in the countryside hold dear.

Rural campaigners accused Labour of a “divisive attack” as Sir Keir commits to banning the activity.

Fox hunting was banned in England and Wales under the last Labour government in 2005, but trail hunting, in which hounds follow a scented cloth, remains legal.

Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance said: “Labour can’t ban trail hunting and then claim that it respects the countryside.

“Trail hunting is exactly what they told hunts to do 20 years ago and now they are saying that they want to ban that, too.

“This is an unjustified and divisive attack on the rural community and one which is out of step with the public’s priorities for the countryside.

“If Labour was truly interested in animal welfare and the effectiveness of the law it would have committed to review the Hunting Act.

“Instead it is pledging further pointless legislation that will waste hours of parliamentary time and criminalise people for a totally benign activity.

“It’s not ‘change’ to use the countryside as a political football again.”