Background

With an ever-growing population requiring a secure and healthy food supply, farming and agriculture is one of the most vital industries in the United Kingdom. Farming is a highly interlinked discipline inseparable from other important areas of policy, including the economy, energy, animal welfare, and protection of the countryside and environment.

Farming plays a major role in the UK economy. According to the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), in 2022 there were some 471,000 people working full-time or part-time in farming, with a further four million in associated industries such as the processing, distribution, or retailing of agricultural produce. The GVA (Gross Value Added at basic prices) contribution of agriculture to the UK economy was £13.9bn which is 0.6% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), constituting an increase of £1.8bn (15%) in GVA compared to 2021. It is therefore crucial for policymakers to give due consideration to this vital sector of the UK economy.

A robust agricultural sector is not only important for the UK economy, but to its continued food security. Without our farmers, there would quite literally be no food. Threats to food security include: market distortions introduced by subsidy-driven crop production or land use; protectionist trade barriers; a dependence on imported feed and other products; inequitable access to markets and resources for smaller suppliers; and the loss of traditional farming methods to those methods favoured by mega-corporations.

While farmers in the UK and beyond are generally regarded in very favourable terms by the general public, the demonstrations that have spread across Continental Europe and recently reached UK shores have highlighted how unrealistic policies in the pursuit of unachievable ideological goals (spurred on by aggressive special interest lobby groups) have threatened the very existence of many particularly smaller farms. Fewer farms means less food production, higher prices, and less food security.

Our Commitment to Food Producers

We in Freedom Alliance therefore lend our wholehearted support to those who produce our food, often for low pay and in unforgiving circumstances. Fundamental to this commitment is to:

  1. Respond to government and bureaucratic overreach into farmers’ and fishers’ lives, and livelihoods.
  2. Question the narrative on government policies where they are directed and led by large corporate and globalist entities.
  3. Give a voice to our food producers and consumers and engage them in the political process.

With these principles in mind, we set out our party policies for farming and agriculture, fishing, and food safety and provision. As much of the current attention on farming and food production has been driven by environmentalist lobby groups, we also comment specifically on this aspect. Where different government departments are responsible for food, farming, and environmental matters, we call for greater communication and coordination between these, to ensure a unified set of policies that strike a balance between promoting individual liberties, economic freedom, and ensuring responsible and sustainable practices in the agriculture, fishing, and food production sectors.

Farming and Agriculture

Freedom Alliance defends the ability of the United Kingdom to produce its own produce and not be dependent on importing the majority of its food requirements for sustenance. Approximately 58% of the UK food market is met by UK producers. In an increasingly unstable world political climate, Freedom Alliance would prefer to see full self-sufficiency.

Importantly, we distinguish between family/ tenant farmers and small farms, versus those owned by large corporate entities. The former, who make up a sizeable proportion of our agricultural economy, are particularly vulnerable to the unethical practices of large supermarkets demanding lower prices from farmers. These savings are often not passed on to consumers, as supermarkets have huge profit margins and annual profits. This of course comes at a time when farmers are being squeezed by increasing fuel costs, increased fertiliser costs (due to the closure of the UK’s only ammonia plant), and other rising costs, while trying to comply with increasingly restrictive regulation.

Also important to our commitment is a move towards local and regional policies, including regional species diversification, rather than the bureaucratic “one size fits all” favoured by the Westminster government and the EU. What works for an apple grower in Kent is unlikely to be ideal for a crofter in the Highlands. As custodians of the land, we believe that a level of trust in our food producers is in order, and that they understand the local environment better than some distant pen-pusher. For similar reasons we favour local referenda on countryside issues.

We oppose:

We support:

Animal Welfare

Animal welfare is closely interlinked with farming. While there is more that could be said about animals and animal welfare more generally, it is worth setting out our general position in a farming and food production context.

“Animal rights” has become a loaded term because of its unfortunate co-opting over the years by various extremist groups who have engaged in activity not only detrimental to the animals they claim to help, but also to the natural environment, consumers, and businesses. That is why we in Freedom Alliance, who care deeply about animals, feel it more meaningful to refer instead to human responsibilities in the context of animal welfare.

We oppose:

We support:

Fishing

The UK sits on an economic goldmine, being its proportionately large territorial waters, comprising some 70% of Europe’s fishing grounds. However, towards the end of the UK’s membership of the EU, despite this large territorial area the UK was only permitted a mere 13% of the EU fishing quota! This allocation was even leaner for the smallest boats which make up the majority of the UK fishing fleet. Leaving the EU theoretically afforded the UK the opportunity to throw off the shackles of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and regain control of its 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, rebuilding its fishing and maritime industries, and revitalise its run-down coastal towns. This opportunity has not yet been capitalised upon.

As with farming, we support policies and allocation opportunities that favour smaller, independent fishers.

Furthermore, if we want fish to be a reliable and sustainable food source in the future, the UK must take effective measures to preserve its fishing industry and the marine environment.

We oppose:

We support:

Food Safety and Provision

Freedom Alliance believes that not enough is being done to provide good, nutritious food free from unhealthy substances that pose a long-term threat to human health as well as rural wildlife, the soil, air, and water.

We are not the party of “banning” things, but we do believe in consumer choice. We dislike the idea of 3D-printed “meat” and the proliferation of unhealthy, over-processed meat substitutes marketed as “vegan”. We are concerned at the health risks associated with using insects as food, and the use of certain types of chemicals and additives in the food supply. We would require that such products are prominently labelled so that consumers can avoid them.

We oppose:

We support:

Our Commitment to the Environment

We believe that farming and fishing in general support environmentalism. Farmers and fishers are, after all, the custodians of the rural environment and our territorial waters. However, recent years have seen an increasing legislative burden imposed on those who produce our food and Freedom Alliance calls for a greater level of trust in our farmers and fishers.

Net Zero is, of course, a very hot topic currently. While Freedom Alliance is a pro-environmental party, concerned for the cleanliness of land, water, and air we all enjoy and keen to use the Earth’s resources responsibly, we are extremely concerned at the threat of climate change being used as a pretext for buying up agricultural land by corporations, reducing the food supply and driving up prices.  We draw a clear distinction between the dogmatic adherence to the ideology of man-made climate change, whose policies threaten our food supply, and genuine care for the environment, which supports sustainable and healthy food production.

Again, the environment is a topic that can be addressed more broadly in its own right, but here we set out our environment policies as they apply specifically to farming, agriculture and food production.

We oppose:

We support: