My question on the Farming Debate – growing our own food

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con):

I am a strong supporter of the recent initiatives of the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister to make food growing far more important. What are the targets for getting much more self-sufficient in food, and will it not need further reorientation of the money away from the environmental land management scheme and wilding, and towards proper food promotion schemes?

Fay Jones:

My right hon. Friend pre-empts me. I will certainly come to talk about that point in just a few moments, but let me first talk about further reforms that the Government are introducing, particularly in the field of farming mental health.

We will make up to £500,000 available to charities to deliver projects that support mental health in the farming sector, building on the support already on offer through our farming resilience fund, which has benefited more than 19,000 farmers to date. Mental health in agriculture is a key concern for the Department, so much so that my right hon. Friend the Farming Minister regrets that he is unable to be with us at present, as he is hosting a roundtable on mental health in agriculture. I know that shadow Ministers will agree that that is a commendable thing to be doing. Altogether, the work to change our approach will build a better and more supportive system around farmers, so that they can get on and do what only they do best.

Before I talk about our final strand of work, I want to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Dr Evans). Today his campaign for online retailers to carry a specific “buy British” button has achieved another success, as Ocado has become the latest retailer to adopt the tool, joining Morrisons, Aldi and Sainsbury’s. I congratulate him on his campaign.

Food security is a vital part of our national security. The primary role of farmers is to produce the nation’s food, and they deserve our gratitude for that—a point echoed to me on many occasions by the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir Robert Goodwill), who is away on a Select Committee visit and unable to join today’s debate. Recent years have brought home the truth of that, particularly in an age of climate change, instability and increasingly volatile global food production.

Uncertain times require us to double down on the certainty of our food system. In the Government’s food strategy, we set a clear commitment to maintaining domestic food production at the current level at least, which is around 60% of what we consume. The importance of food security is why we brought in the three-times-a-year food security report through the Agriculture Act 2020. Going further, the Prime Minister announced a fortnight ago that, given the context of the last three years, we will significantly strengthen this work through a new annual food security index. Climate change is increasingly likely to impact on the sector, with more extreme weather events, so it is only right that we step up our monitoring of food security to ensure that we can act swiftly and decisively against any in-year shocks. We expect the work to be UK-wide and will work to achieve that, strengthening accountability across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.


  1. Wanderer
    March 6, 2024

    Fray Jones’ answer:
    “…we set a clear commitment to maintaining domestic food production at the current level at least.”

    With net immigration of 750,000 per year, what will we all eat?

    1. Peter
      March 6, 2024


      I don’t know about Fray Jones. Perhaps we will all eat Fray Bentos corned beef?

      It’s cheap and has been used before in desperate times – feeding troops, wars etc.

    2. Narrow Shoulders
      March 6, 2024

      750,000 per year of people who don’t want to eat what we can grow.

    3. Hope
      March 6, 2024

      FFS is she that stupid? Mental health! 1.395 million people given visas for low paid jobs last year alone, how many could help faming industry? How about our fishing waters, how about putting tariffs on foreign food from RoI? How about stopping checks from No to GB to get rid of bureaucracy? EU environment law, regs and rules should be at the bottom of the heap of priorities. Sack the useless minister she has no grasp of what if required under her brief. Is this another quota appointment by Tories?

      How about all the promises to fund farmers once out of the EU not act in lockstep to continue to help EU farmers.

    4. Peter Wood
      March 6, 2024

      ….of about 60%….
      So when the EU cuts off our food supply because they need it all for their wars, what are we going to eat? Sir J., is it any wonder this PCP is so scorned; this level of complacency is why.
      We need to produce our own food, fuel and defence, and live within our tax base. Not gender-strange support or payments to foreign despots.

    5. a-tracy
      March 6, 2024

      Insects repackaged as healthy food, in free school meals to get kids used to shaped blocks of protein.

    6. Julian Flood
      March 6, 2024

      Soylent Green.


  2. Michelle
    March 6, 2024

    Farming Mental Health??
    Well I do hope it recognises the mental health benefits some physical work in the open air amongst nature could bring to many. I volunteer with a charity and have seen the difference in a young man who has been given work on a local farm. A spring in his step now, instead of the shuffling, mumbling doped up person he was.

    I do hope the Farmers extend any policies to suit and help them to the public, by way of employment in house rather than going for cheap foreign labour.
    Having grown up in the Fenland area, farming, and its associated knock on industry was a big employer.
    When Blair opened up to cheap labour from EU, suddenly it seems the locals were demonised as too lazy to work, and food lay rotting in the fields. Not true.
    Seasonal fruit picking used to be a great way for young people still in school, or students to earn money.
    Perhaps we could see a drive to get teenagers out in the fields instead of sitting at a computer screen.
    It would give them purpose, an education and as physical work can do wonders for mental health, it would be a win-win.

    1. Ed M
      March 7, 2024

      90% to 95% of the problems with our country is cultural not political.

      Tory values such as work ethic, responsibility for self, family over state etc should just be COMMON SENSE. If lots more people just followed these values, productivity would shoot up, NHS bills would shoot down, taxation would shoot down.

      So case of TRYING to figure out how to encourage common sense in people (by Tories working closely with churches, media, educators, people in art world etc – instead of Tories just trying to do it all via politics. So Conservatism should ultimately be a cultural thing – not a political thing – although politics / economy policy still really important obviously).

    2. Ed M
      March 7, 2024

      Something that would make HUGE impact is to re-introduce national service (for 3 months). Where you can do military service and / or voluntary service (caring for the old etc) .

      Most boys would choose military service and so this would help them grow into proper masculine men. Military service should be both fun / playful as well as tough / challenging – both.

      Most girls would choose voluntary service and so this would help them grow into proper feminine women. And like military service, voluntary service should be fun / playful as well as tough / challenging as well – both.

      To turn boys into men. It should be fun as well not just tough / challenging.

      You can do military service and / or voluntary service.

      1. Ed M
        March 7, 2024

        By the way, national service is not something new. Advanced and not-so-advanced civilisations / cultures have had some sort of national service for thousands of years – until about 50 years ago.

        National service isn’t just about protecting our country. It’s also about growing our boys into men. A rite of passage (like the ancient Greeks etc).

  3. Peter
    March 6, 2024

    Nothing will happen. The clue ? The woman talks about ‘extreme weather events’ after a lot of waffle and pointless name checking.

  4. DOM
    March 6, 2024

    Let’s insert the term ‘climate change’ into the debate to corrupt the debate akin to the insertion of the term ‘far right’ into any debate focused on ‘extremism’ and ‘hate’.

    Language like agriculture has been tainted by forces with satanic intent and I do mean satanic intent.

  5. Cliff..Wokingham.
    March 6, 2024

    Sir John,
    We do indeed need to grow more of our own food. As conflict grows more likely, so that need to grow more increases. Too many politicians are not aware that, as a nation, we were almost starved into surrendering due to enemies blockading our food imports by sea. We now grow far less and need to feed far more, so we could well be in trouble if war breaks out.
    We hear much about the plight of farmers and their mental health. Suicide levels are disproportionately high amongst the farming population.
    In my view, many of the problems farmers have are due to the demand for ever cheaper food and supermarkets being too powerful in setting price and specification requirements within one sided contracts which they change at their whim.
    Our dairy industry has been destroyed by ever reducing prices which the supermarkets demand whilstt, the cost to farmers to produce that milk and maintain their farm increases. Dairy farming uses a lot of water and power.
    Personally, I think the supermarkets have destroyed our high streets too, aided by governments by making it necessary for both members of a couple needing to work just to have a basic level of existence, but that’s another story.

    1. Mickey Taking
      March 6, 2024

      What happens when our ageing farmers can’t pass it on to children who see the effort, little reward, Government ignorance and they take business risks way out of proportion to other endeavours.? Answer – we gradually pay a lot more for imported food and we begin to starve!

  6. agricola
    March 6, 2024

    I am not sufficiently aware of the current financial playing field for farmers. I do not imagine they have much interest in being cosseted against climate change, tgey have coped with that for many hundreds of years.

    I am sure they would appreciate access to cheap stable money so that they can invest in the latest viable technology. I am sure they would not object to schemes enabling them to nourish their land while avoiding chemical run off into our water system. Any thing that curbed the avarice of supermarkets, enabling farmers a good return on their endeavours, would not go amiss. Curbing the supermarket lobby would be a good start.

    While I might buy steak mince from one specific supermarket all other meat comes from farm shops because their bacon does not spit salt water in your eye on cooking, and five minute a side sirloin steak that cuts and chews with flavour and comfort. Most supermarkets make a big deal and charge a premium for maturing meat by hanging for 28 days when such practise is the norm for a real butcher. They are scamming an ignorant public.

    Curb the intrusions on farmers of enterprise by planning authorities. Read “Diddly Squat” for more info in this area. Pubs turned into village shops and restaurants to survive, encourage farmers to move from the plough similarly. We are in many areas overrun with deer to the detriment of farm crops. Let bambi be a cash crop.

    The real direction in this area should come from farmers. Listen to them and act. While you are at it, apply all the above principals to the fishing industry. An excellent way of supplying the dietry needs of the UK public, which in recent years they seem to have lost touch with.

  7. Linda Brown
    March 6, 2024

    Amazing two people not there who should have been. Is that how important they consider the farming industry? Mental health problems are because of farmers not being given the respect and help they need. Rewilding and the rest is all very good but we need food production which includes hedges like we had in earlier days for wildlife. We don’t need all this mass farming that seems to be putting in from the USA type of cruel practices to animals. Small farms with farmers being recognised for their contribution is the way forward. Farm shops need introducing, where wanted, to take on the supermarkets who sell sub-standard quality when compared to on the spot farm produce. Animals need to be slaughtered near to home and not in mechanical places for high turnover. Also how they are slaughtered needs looking at and meat needs to be marked up as to how it has been killed so that people know where their meat has come from. Government has been asked to mark meat but has so far ignored the request from those of us who care about how animals are treated in their last hours on this earth.

  8. Mike Wilson
    March 6, 2024

    You have to smile. Screw farmers into the dirt and then offer them charities to look after their mental health! Another ‘good one!’, Mr. Redwood.

    1. Mickey Taking
      March 6, 2024

      the average age of farmers in UK goes up every year, what else can they do, who wants to take over such a poor proposition.

  9. Berkshire Alan
    March 6, 2024

    Oh dear, more talk, talk, talk.
    Farmers are having mental health problems because they are tearing their hair out trying to cope with all of these government regulations, reports, inspections, directives, subsidies, taxes and the like, whilst trying to make a living by growing food.
    The weather used to be the farmers worst enemy, now it would seem it is the government.
    Farming should be simple, plant the crops that best suit your land with market demand in mind, and sell at the best price you can.
    Clearly food has to be grown in a manner that will not poison the customers, the ground ,or water courses, but other than that why does the Government want to even get involved.
    I would have thought 60% self sufficiency is no where near high enough, and with more land being taken up with housing for our ever increasing population, it would seem to me we are heading in completely the wrong direction.

  10. Nigl
    March 6, 2024

    Sunak used equally deceitful tautology when he spoke at the farmers conference. The Westminster government has done everything it can to reduce production which has now fallen from 80% of our needs in the 80s to 60% now with a trade deficit of close to £30 billion.

    Food security is a misleading phrase. It actually relates to sources of food across the world, as an example recent much crowed about trade agreements to allow dairy, beef and lamb in from Australia and New Zealand tariff free with lower welfare standards so under cutting home production.

    Another example of this government selling us out. The food security index is more dissembling. Sir John asks an important question and is fobbed off with a tautological response once again.

    And in other news relating to that, we see the sudden production of umpteen critical reports on our borders and immigration services, just coincidentally when a bigger story broke.

    It is now even more obvious that the government is wilfully misleading us trying to cover up the reality.

    And like the Post Office did it acknowledge its culpability? Of course not. Smeared and sacked the whistle blowers probably with a pay off and gagging clause.


  11. miami.mode
    March 6, 2024

    The minister says “in an age of climate change”.

    Can she give an example of when the climate ever stopped changing?

  12. Bloke
    March 6, 2024

    Fay Jones gave a moderately helpful reply, but may not have answered some of the specifics adequately. Also, ‘Doubling down’ to maintain the present level sounds like struggling harder just to keep things as they are.
    On a minor point: ‘Up to £500,000 available’ for supporting mental health sounds generous, but as money-off sales reveal, even a discount of 5% fits within an offer of ‘Up to 80% off’. However, it does appear that some progress is occurring.

  13. Enigma
    March 6, 2024

    In 2010 a young man came to the door to canvas my vote in the local elections. I expressed my concern about the new houses being built on our farms and asked him about food security. He didn’t know what I meant. When I asked how we were going to feed everyone if we destroyed our farms he said we would just fly food in. That was the year of the ash cloud when all flights were grounded. The Lib Dem lady told me there was plenty of food in the supermarkets. 🤷🏼‍♀️

    1. Mickey Taking
      March 6, 2024

      Reflect on that when you go to vote.

  14. Original Richard
    March 6, 2024

    Fay Jones : “Climate change is increasingly likely to impact on the sector, with more extreme weather events…..”

    The IPCC Working Group 1 (“the science”) (WG1) Table 12 in Chapter 12 shows that the IPCC has concluded that a signal of climate change has not yet emerged beyond natural variability for the following phenomena:

    River floods, heavy precipitation and pluvial floods, landslides drought (all types), severe wind storms, tropical cyclones (includes hurricanes), sand and dust storms, heavy snowfall and, ice storms, hail, snow avalanche and coastal flooding.

    The IPCC can only find some slight warming leading some melting of ice and snow.

    Will the Government please stop gas lighting us.

  15. Bryan Harris
    March 6, 2024

    Given the war against farming, generally, around the world, and the excessive number of farming regulations and incompetency of DAF, is it any wonder that so many farmers are giving up or are mentally affected?

    That £500,000 would not be needed if the pressure was taken off the farmers:
    – stop trying to persuade farmers to give up their land and occupation;
    – reduce the regulations that drive farmers to the brink;
    – find ways to make farming more profitable and easier on the farmer.

  16. Julian Flood
    March 6, 2024

    On the border between Suffolk and Cambridgeshire there is an application for a solar energy scheme which will cover four and a half square miles of open countryside with glass. The Sunnica renewable energy scheme is opposed by all those who understand the inability of solar energy to do anything about the lack of reliable power supplies in the winter or at night, and will ruin the lives of thousands of people who have lived in that area for generations.

    There is a particularly worrying aspect of the planning rules relating to the suitability of marginal land for solar development: those opposing the scheme have, I understand, been refused access to check the grading which was done by private contractors. It may be that questions about food production on the site(s) are already answered satisfactorily, but one would be reassured about that if a further, publicly funded and open reassessment were to be carried out before the final decision is made. Would the affected land be worth irrigating, would different crop management schemes produce more food, will the new crops made possible by genetic engineering science contribute to import reduction? Are solar farms an efficient way of using our resources?

    The Sunnica application is a perfect illustration of the choice, food or unreliable electricity.


  17. Ed M
    March 6, 2024

    This food problem is in THEORY easily SOLVABLE.

    OK, so: 1) Brits love gardening. 2) There is a tonne of unused green space both – A) Private garden areas that could be used to grow food (that the owners of this land choose to do so for themselves) and and B) Public spaces in general everywhere that could be used as allotments etc.

    So, it’s a cultural thing to try and persuade people of the JOY of growing their own herbs, fruit and veg instead of just growing colourful flowers – both. You’re growing these amazing things that don’t just look good but that are good for you and you save lots of money. And growing your own veg etc is good for your health – both physical and mental. So win-win all over the place.

    If Tory Party could please get on to his contacts in politics and / or media to try and promote content / programmes dedicated to growing your own food but in the context of entertainment not education.

    So a fun and healthy and money-saving way to solve the problem of food production whilst saving lots of money but not having to import immigrants to do this work etc. Won’t solve all our food production problems but millions of Brits could be growing their own herbs, fruit and veg.

    Lastly, food that is completely organic – great quality.

    1. Cliff.. Wokingham.
      March 7, 2024

      Ed M
      So are you suggesting a re run of The Dig For Victory Campaign?

  18. hefner
    March 7, 2024

    One has to be a fool to put all the work of IPCC into Table 12 of Chapter 12. As usual OR (I really wonder whether he has ever read an IPCC report, any of the WG reports in fact) is presenting the usual biased view of the Co2coalition. Anyone reading the full chapter 12 would realise that OR’s assessment of what he read is pure and simple bn115h1t.

    And OR is really a gaslighters’ poor gaslighter.

    ‘The current climate is most regions is already different from the climate of the early or mid-20th century with respect to several Climatic Impact Drivers. Climate change has already altered CID profiles and resulted in shifts in the magnitude, frequency, duration, seasonality and spatial extent of associated indices (high confidence)´.

    But go on please, as some time ago Bob Dylan said:
    ´Let me ask you one question
    Is your money that good?
    Will it buy you forgiveness?
    Do you think that it could?
    I think you will find
    When your death takes its toll
    All the money you made
    Will never buy back your soul.
    And I hope that you die
    And your death will come soon
    I’ll follow your casket
    By the pale afternoon
    I’ll watch while you’re lowered
    Down to your deathbed
    And I’ll stand on your grave
    Till I’m sure that you’re dead’.

    This last text could be applied to a number of people …

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