English Horticultural Sector (Horticultural Sector Committee Report) - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 12:42 pm ar 19 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of The Earl of Shrewsbury The Earl of Shrewsbury Ceidwadwyr 12:42, 19 Ebrill 2024

My Lords, I declare an interest as a non-farming retired member of the National Farmers’ Union. I have been involved in agriculture all my working life.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and his committee on their excellent report. It is a first-class, complex piece of work that addresses the horticultural sector in great detail and provides the Government with pragmatic and sensible conclusions and recommendations. I know the report is strongly supported by the National Farmers’ Union.

There are a couple of points to which I shall draw your Lordships’ attention. I was fascinated and enthused to learn about salad production from vertical farming technologies, and the considerable benefits that are achieved by growing in this manner: less use of water and nitrogen, less waste, no pesticides and an efficient use of energy. The list of benefits is wide-ranging. In addition, vertical growing frees up significant areas of agricultural land, as we have heard today, for growing other crops. It produces constant year-round production and employment, giving added security to the grower and their workforce.

Yet, as the report states,

“vertical farms struggle to access government support”.

Why? With current global instability, we cannot and should not continue to rely on imports of foodstuffs that we are perfectly capable of producing in this country. The Government appear to be supportive of horticulture and agriculture, as stated by them at the Farm to Fork summit and in their food strategy, but platitudes and fine ideas do not put food on people’s plates.

I fear I am somewhat cynical when I say that in my opinion, no political party seems to have the enthusiasm or determination to fully back the agricultural and horticultural sectors, and it has been like that for a long while. The fact is that it is simply not a headline-making industry, whereas currently, matters of a green nature attract constant column inches and opportunities. In that vein, much as I support rewilding, I believe it should be done only on land that is uneconomical or unviable in production terms. We need every acre of good productive land to be available for cropping.

In conclusion, the report is excellent. The Government and Defra should support its findings and take immediate action to support them in full, with both actions and financial support.