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NFU24: Setting the political agenda for UK horticulture

The focus at this year's Horticulture breakout session was on the relaunch of the NFU's Horticulture Growth Strategy, and that included plenty of discussion around the Seasonal Workers Scheme, crop protection, planning and fairness in the supply chain.
NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board chair Martin Emmett kicked-off the session explaining some of the main points in the NFU's revised strategy, which aims to set the political agenda for UK horticulture.

It highlights the top 10 policy areas which can unlock barriers and enable growth, including access to labour and crop protection products, a more enabling planning framework, energy price support, and future horticulture funding.

In his presentation, Mr Emmett looked at what progress has been made and reiterated that as we headed towards a general election, it was imperative that all political parties got behind this strategy and helped drive the sector forward.

He highlighted three areas in particular, the first of which was the need to address unfair trading practices and for improved transparency in the supply chain and he urgently called on members to give their feedback to the Defra supply chain fairness review, which closes imminently.

Long term challenge
"This has been a long-term challenge for the whole sector, and what we really want is for government to use its powers in the Agriculture Act to address unfair practices in the supply chain. For Defra to do that really depends on the feedback that goes into their review. This was a major ask by the NFU to get this review under way."

Another key area is planning, said Mr Emmett, as so often this is the final barrier where things fall down.

"There can be the greatest prospect of building that reservoir or new greenhouse and just when you need to put in that investment, planning produces these hurdles."

A major barrier, said Mr Emmett, is that if you want to build a significant development you have to build into the plan a net increase in biodiversity and "in real terms that usually means more land or buying offsets.

Seasonal worker asks
Mr Emmett then moved on to the Seasonal Workers Scheme and the frustrations at government not releasing their worker allocation for 2025.
"This is not tenable; we cannot go from year to year not being clear what seasonal workers allocation we will be getting. If this industry is going to be sustainable and grow, we will need more workers in the future not less.

"Growers are already making those plans for next year and we simply can't just keep waiting. Our ask is for a five-year rolling plan and we must have that to build certainty into our industry and make the investments that we need. Critically, we need an announcement on next year's seasonal worker allowance now and we need that to be accompanied with a rolling five-year plan."

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