NFU Conference “you can’t live off the view”
Shortages & Food Security
The NFU's annual conference returned to the ICC in Birmingham 22–23 February 2022.
The first day of the NFU’s conference took place amid media reports of food shortages in fruit and vegetables and the need to prioritise food security was a key theme.
The shortages were highlighted by Minette Batters in her keynote speech:
- UK egg production has fallen to its lowest level in nine years. Which means there were nearly a billion less eggs produced in 2022 compared to 2019.
- Production of salad ingredients like tomatoes and cucumbers are expected to fall to the lowest levels since records began in 1985.
- NFU’s survey of livestock producers has found that 40% of beef farmers and 36% of sheep farmers are planning to reduce numbers in the next 12 months, with input costs cited overwhelmingly as the main reason.
Minette Batters - President of the National Farmers' Union of England and Wales
Minette Batters full speech is accessible here NFU23: NFU23: Read Minette Batters' Conference speech in full – NFUonline
The key themes were the uncertainty and volatility of the last 12 months from the war in Ukraine, to energy, climate, as well as food shortages, food security and prioritising British farming.
3 key lessons were referenced:
- The need to prioritise British farmers as food producers, particularly as global population rises and productive farmland becomes scarcer
- The need to prioritise a sustainable approach to farming and achieving Net Zero, contributing to our energy security through on-farm renewables generation.
- Food security.
The priority the UK government has given to two trade deals with huge agricultural net exporters, Australia and New Zealand was highlighted and the cumulative impact these deals will have on sensitive sectors such as beef, sheepmeat and sugar.
“The NFU are watching - like hawks - the current negotiations with Canada and Mexico, both members of CPTPP - the regional Trans-Pacific Partnership – which the UK is hoping to join this year.”
Further there was a call for a set of “core standards” for food imports.
Th NFU’s position on the government’s current programme to review all Retained EU Legislation is that this was ‘ill-judged’. It was highlighted the government should set out a realistic timeline for reviewing EU regulation to better balance important safeguards as well as innovation and productivity.
Overview - Grocery Code Adjudicator GCA
The statutory consultation on the future of the Grocery Code Adjudicator Groceries Code Adjudicator: statutory review, 2019 to 2022 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) was highlighted as very concerning. The GCA’s role in policing compliance with the grocery code and in holding retailers to account is stated to have ‘never been more important.’
The consultation was coined in terms of a periodic review only and this reference makes this appear that the response to the consultation that is still awaited may be much more sweeping than may otherwise be anticipated.
Minette Batters stated: ‘Merging it into the Competition and Markets Authority would dilute its power and effectiveness’. Instead, she believed the GCA’s powers should be expanded. Groceries Code Adjudicator statutory review – NFU response – NFUonline
Support for Farming
The NFU emergency press conference held before Christmas referenced the industry sectors hardest hit: pigs, poultry, dairy and horticulture.
Minette Batters called for the government to use the exceptional market conditions powers in the Agriculture Act. Also called for the need for dedicated support for the energy intensive sectors of agriculture and horticulture.
It was reported the Prime Minister had assured Minette Batters that he would convene an annual food resilience round table. Minette Batters stated the NFU was pushing for this but that ‘we need action not words’.
The Government – Mark Spencer - Minister of State for Food, Farming and Fisheries of United Kingdom
The list of measures Farmers benefit from was provided :
- increasing the Employment Allowance,
- cutting fuel duty and VAT, and making sure you can access the Energy Relief Scheme,
- and action on business rates to reduce bills.
- an initial 45,000 visas available for seasonal workers to travel to the UK for up to six months, paid the National Living Wage from 1 April, which is £10.42/per hour
- brought forward BPS payments to twice a year.
“We are just wrapping up our review of the dairy and pork supply chains, and we’ll be assessing where further action is needed in other sectors.”
Sustainable Farming Incentive & Funding
- Sustainable Farming Incentive payment on a quarterly basis instead of annually.
- The level of funding available to farmers remains unchanged, two-point-four billion pounds.
- The scheme more accessible to tenant farmers, by offering 3-year agreements instead of 5-years and allowing tenants on shorter contracts to enter into the scheme, without the need for landlord consent.
- Each year, more standards to SFI to be added, with all the standards in place by end of 2024.
- There are more than 250 options across the SFI and Countryside
Development, Agri-Tech, Automation, Gene Editing
The potential of precision breeding techniques were stated as having a hugely positive impact on global food security.
It was also stated that this year the Government will be making 168 million pounds available to help farmers and growers to support sustainable productivity, and to help improve animal health and welfare, and the environment, water quality and automation. (Press release also hereIncreased government funding to boost farming productivity - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk))
Later this year, the Government will be introducing funding to help smaller abattoirs
The Resilience Fund has already supported over 10,000 farmers with free business advice,
- Consensus amongst attendees that the lack of government checks on imports is unacceptable.
- "We will not accept hormone-treated beef" as UK bids to join CPTPP trade bloc, Mark Spencer stated.
- We are committed to using “every tool in the box to control this disease” (TB)
- However, Mark Spencer could not confirm whether his Department would keep EU pesticides regulation as is or review this.
Kier Starmer – leader of the opposition
- “food security is national security”.
- “The next Labour government will commit to this – 50% of all food purchased by the public sector will be food produced locally and sustainably,” (This is subject to a consultation already to use public sector purchasing power to ensure positive change in the food system. re health, animal welfare, environmental and socio-economic impacts Seeking views on possible changes to public sector food and catering policy. - Defra - Citizen Space )
- trade deal” with Australia, which he described as “a £300m hit to British farming”. He said a Labour government would “remove barriers to exporters, not put them up” and “protect high British standards, not water them down”
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP
Reasserting food security - Keeping the country fed is what farming is for. Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey's address at NFU conference - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Food security was heavily referenced, currently, we have self-sufficiency just under two-thirds, which was praised. Also the argument made for the benefits of the move from CAP to ELMS (Env Land Management Schemes) away from tick boxes to real social goods and flexible schemes more easily accessible to all farmers from tenant to landowner. Agritech and gene editing was again referenced as a priority for the government in supporting farming and the environment. One item of particular note was the promise to provide for a Food Security Summit, later this year.
Reference to the measures provided:
- farming profit averaging tax relief.
- brought forward BPS payments to twice a year,
- Avian flu - modified the compensation scheme.
- action on fuel duty, energy bills and business rates.
- two-point-four billion pounds funding unchanged
- national food strategy.
- state of our nation’s food security at least once every three years.
- 6 new SFI standards.
- using nature-based approaches to managing pests, reducing pesticides, costs and improving environment
- Target of 70% of agricultural land and 70% of farm holdings to be covered by new farming schemes by 2028.
- provided 10,000 farmers with support and advice through the resilience fund,
- ensuring all farmers can access the successful Catchment Sensitive Farming programme,
- providing seed funding to the newly created industry body for agriculture to boost skills and piloting new ways to support entrants to the sector.
- We announced 45,000 visas, removed the 25% tariff on maize imports from the USA to help with feed costs, and
Sector Support 'we are pushing ahead with our supply chain reviews into pigs and dairy – which we will conclude soon'.
Trade ‘We still have a strong trade agreement with the EU, we are expanding our trade agreements around the world. They are a two-way street and our new dedicated agricultural attachés in key markets are bolstering our efforts to increase exports in addition to what our diplomatic are already doing on trade.’
Biosecurity ‘We will be saying more soon about how we will be enhancing biosecurity controls at our borders even further’
- first phase two hundred million pounds in our Science Capability in Animal Health programme at Weybridge.
- reduce our reliance on antibiotics
Plant science and precision-breeding improving the resilience of crops. Breakthroughs like the new strains of wheat being developed at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, that are more resistant to climate change, and more resilient to pests. The Precision Breeding Bill that the NFU have supported should receive Royal Assent soon.
We continue to have more new trials to beam broadband into the hardest to reach rural areas directly from satellites in space,
“I won’t be supporting reintroduction of species like lynx or wolves. We just don’t need to and we won’t do.”
- Animal health
In other news...
“Let them eat turnips”
Ms Coffey told MPs on Thursday 23 Feb that people "would be eating turnips right now" if the UK was more focused on seasonal eating.
Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, summed up Ms Coffey’s comments as: “Let them eat turnips”.
A Downing Street spokesman said the Environment Secretary was “setting out the importance of celebrating the produce that we grow in the UK.”
Sugar Tax Failure
a new briefing from the Institute of Economic Affairs sets out that the evidence for the ‘sugar tax’ that raised a levy on the amount of sugar in soft drinks – or any other source of calories – as a means of reducing obesity is weak and largely theoretical. Sugar taxes defy basic economics, argues new report — Institute of Economic Affairs (iea.org.uk) as reported As obesity rates continue to rise, has Jamie Oliver's sugar tax failed? | Daily Mail Online
- Demand for sugary drinks, snacks and fatty foods is inelsatic. People tend to be quite unresponsive to price hikes and do not significantly change their shopping habits.
- Consumers respond by switching to cheaper brands of the product or shopping in cheaper shops.
- This leads to the consumption of potentially inferior goods rather than the consumption of fewer calories.
- Taxes on sugary drinks lead consumers to switch to other high calorie drinks such as fruit juice, milk or alcohol.
- Taxes on energy-dense food and soft drinks take a greater share of income from the poor than the rich. This regressive effect is exacerbated by low-income consumers being less responsive to price changes than the rich.
- No impact on obesity or health outcomes has ever been found.
Chris Snowdon, Head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “Lacking any real world evidence that sugar taxes are effective as health measures, campaigners continue to cite findings from crude economic models which fail to account for the ability of consumers to choose cheaper brands, to shop at cheaper shops and to switch to alternative high-calorie food and drink products."
Welfare – EFSA
Welfare of hens and pigs set out by EFSA Welfare of broilers and laying hens on farm | EFSA (europa.eu) and alternative to cages EFSA: alternatives to cages recommended to improve broiler and hen welfare | EFSA (europa.eu) and pigs Welfare of pigs on farm | EFSA (europa.eu)
Co-op Best Before
Co-op is removing best before dates on more than 150 lines of fresh produce to help customers cut food waste and save money.
Shoppers will see changes in store later this month, with best before dates removed from almost all of Co-op’s fresh produce including apples, oranges, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, onions and broccoli.
Last year, Co-op also introduced a “freeze me” message to its own-brand milk products in a bid to cut down on milk being wasted at home, and also replaced use by dates with best before dates on own-brand yoghurts.
ASA Seasonal Guidance
Substantiation Advice Substantiation 101 - ASA | CAP
- Hold the evidence BEFORE making the claim
A claim should be built around the available evidence, not the other way around.
- The evidence must be commensurate to the claim being made
different types of claim will require different levels of evidence; ie a breakthrough beauty claim (e.g. Omega Pharma Ltd, 2016) will need much more rigorous evidence than a well-established one.
- Substantiate the claim as it is likely to be understood by consumers
Marketers will need to have evidence to support the claim as it is likely to be understood by the average consumer; having substantiation for the claim as you intended it to be understood won’t pass the test.
Obvious exaggerations, claims that are unlikely to be taken literally and clear statements of opinion are unlikely to need substantiation. Difficulty can arise where interpretations of this differ.
Avoid causing Religious Offence this Easter Avoiding causing religious offence during Easter - ASA | CAP
Given the sensitivities surrounding people’s religious beliefs, marketers must take care not to cause serious or widespread offence when using religious references in their campaigns in or around Easter
Marketers are able to use religious language and imagery in their advertising, provided it is not mocking or disrespectful nor seek to trivialise the Christian faith.
Whilst something may be distasteful to some, it may not necessarily be considered mocking or derogatory.
While humour can sometimes help to reduce the likelihood of causing serious or widespread offence, the line when it comes to religion can often be very thin.
Don’t be a bad egg, make sure your Easter promotions are cracking Don’t be a bad egg, make sure your Easter promotions are cracking - ASA | CAP
Don’t eggs-aggerate savings
Savings claims must be based on the genuine TUI UK Ltd - ASA | CAP price at which the product is usually sold, they must be accurate and they must not exaggerate the saving that could be made by the consumer. Generally, the sale price should not be available for longer than the normal price, and the reference price given should be the most recent price available.
Don’t egg-nore significant conditions
Rule 8.17 requires that ads for promotions include all significant conditions Promotional marketing: terms and conditions and significant conditions - ASA | CAP that it would be misleading to omit. These are conditions which could affect whether someone chooses to participate in a promotional offer or not. Significant conditions should usually be made clear in the initial piece of marketing material.
Don’t egg consumers on with irrelevant or misleading information
Marketers should ensure that their ads do not place undue pressure on consumers to make a decision to purchase and must beware of crossing the line into misleading pressure selling tactics, (rules 3.31 and 3.32). Countdown clocks dylanqueen.co.uk - ASA | CAP or ads which highlight a high level of interest PUA Training Ltd - ASA | CAP from consumers are examples of tactics the ASA may consider problematic for placing undue pressure on consumers to make a decision.
Don’t under egg-stimate the level of demand
Before advertising a promotion you should ensure you have made a reasonable estimate of demand and that you can demonstrate that you’ve done so. If the availability of your promotional items is not enough to meet this demand, or if customers need to make a purchase to qualify for the promotional item, you must make any limitations on availability explicitly clear in the ad – “subject to availability” might not be enough.