Defra funding for farming will make it "a trailblazer for government" says Truss

Defra secretary Elizabeth Truss promised a doubling of investment in Britain's "world-class" capabilities in science and animal and plant health in her address to the Oxford Farming Conference yesterday (6 January).

Image: Gareth Milner
Image: Gareth Milner

"We have secured £2.7 billion to invest in capital - 12 per cent more than in the previous five years," she said. "We will invest in technology, digital systems, growing our exports, world-leading science, protection against animal health and plant disease - and of course flood defences."

This would partly be achieved by creating greater efficiencies in Defra and its agencies, including shared back-office services, which would "save 15 per cent from our running costs", she claimed. She also promised to "cut thousands more inspections" with the proposed Single Farm Inspection Task Force.

NFU president Meurig Raymond broadly welcomed the speech, saying: "This funding is very welcome and we hope this will give a much-needed boost to research and development in agri-tech. We are eagerly awaiting more specifics on this funding as it's such a vital part of UK agriculture."

But he added: "Despite her enthusiasm for UK agriculture, I am surprised that Liz Truss did not cover the impacts of the introduction of a national living wage. Employment is the single biggest cost for many horticultural businesses and this policy would make UK produce simply uncompetitive."

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