Dairy farmers have been warned they will have to work together if they and other sectors are to survive the continued high costs of production and the UK Government’s ever increasing commitment to protect the environment more than food security.

Speaking at the Semex Dairy Conference in Glasgow on Monday, Minette Batters, NFU president of England and Wales, said the sector is facing an extremely challenging time when 5% of farmers left the industry in 2023; 23% of producers are unsure if they will continue beyond the next two years and 30% of members are questioning their future in the sector.

The Northern Farmer: NFU President Minette Batters at her farm in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England NFU President Minette Batters at her farm in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England

Add in continued uncertainty in the markets, high input prices, and devolved governments paying lip service if any to food security, and Ms Batters stressed farm resilience is massively under threat. “You will have to unite or die because the Government thinks farm resilience comes from other markets and volatility is here to stay,” said Ms Batters.

Of more concern she said, is the Government’s distinct lack of interest in food production, security, and future agriculture policy.

With a General Election expected later in the year, Ms Batters has little faith in either the Conservative or Labour parties when it comes to meeting the needs of the farming industry.

She also has grave concerns for the industry whichever party is in power, when she is stepping down as president of the NFU at next month’s AGM.

“England is the only country in the G20 Group that has taken a step back from food production to deliver on the environment. Food production has to be embedded in the scheme.

“Sadly the UK Government is 100% focused on less food production and delivering for the legislative targets in the Environment Act.

“We have the environmental proof of the plan and we have the very capable member Dame Stacy as chair marking the Government’s homework and she has more power over the environment than the Government.

The Northern Farmer: Minette Batters president of the NFU in England and WalesMinette Batters president of the NFU in England and Wales


"So if we are going to bed the importance of national food security into that scheme, it’s going to be done UK wide,” said Ms Batters.

Calling on the industry to unite she stressed the urgent need for farmers to concentrate on future policy here and now, when they still can.

“Right now this is flashing red. This (future policy) would be the thing that keeps me awake at night because we need a political reset on the importance of farmers to deliver on food production. If we can get that bit right – they’ll be able to deliver on the legislative targets.

“You are going to have to work really hard. If you as an industry are seen to be squabbling amongst yourselves I can tell you, it won’t just be the politicians that are rubbing their hands – civil servants across the four nations will be even more delighted – we have a huge rack of commercial expertise in governments across the four nations.

“This is a major, major reset moment. If people didn’t realise, we’ve got a lot more products coming onto our market – Australian beef and lamb is here right now engaging with the food service sector.

“It’s really serious stuff guys, really serious, and I leave this industry wondering whether you are really up for uniting and focussing on the big picture on what future policy will be.

"We’re going to sell out on sustainability and we’ll be planting trees at scale and at grassroots the way we’re going, so it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee and unite,” said Ms. Batters.