Liz Truss promises to 'back farmers and fishermen'

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A North Yorskhire-based farmer has signalled his dismay over the new Prime Minster, who has made “flaky” promises to help the indsutry. Meanwhile, soaring energy costs are hamstringing crop proudction and are dealing a blow to farmers who have been forced to fork out extra cash to keep their machinery running. While Ms Truss has promised to help businesses with an energy support package, John Swiers, 64, has told Express.co.uk the Government is “not supporting” famers, just “hindering them less”. 

Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine and his move to withold crucial supplies to Europe has seen energy prices skyrocket across the country due to the integrated nature of the gas market. This has not only seen household bills skyrocket, threatening fuel poverty for millions of families, it has also put a major strain on businesses’ operations. 

For farmers, this has had a particular damning impact, which coupled with drought over the summer has seen food production plummet by 20 percent in the UK. Higher energy prices have also seen the costs of running machinery on farms go up, hindering profits.

Mr Swiers runs a farm based in North Yorkshire which has been in his family for generations, specialising in arable crops, including products such as wheat, barley and grape seed oil. While arable crops are not at risk from drought in the same wayx that fruits and vegatables are, Mr Swiers said that soaring energy prices have forced his input costs to go up, making it more difficult to make a profit. 

He told Express.co.uk: “Higher energy prices have increased our input costs. You have to tailor you inputs to maximise your profits. When your inputs go up in price, the equations change and you’ve got to do things slightly differently.”

And making matters tougher for farmers like Mr Swiers, the price of chemical fertlisers have also gone up as a result of soaring energy costs, given that nitrogen fertiliser is made from gas. 

This has forced a lot of fertiliser plants to close down as it is becoming too expensive for farmers to be incentivised to buy. 

Amid this crisis which is making it difficult for business to make a profit, Prime Minsiter Liz Truss, who has repeatedly argued she wants to incentivise investment, grow the economy and provide more jobs, has pledged to help ease the impacts on firms with a support package. 

The bills support releif scheme will mean that bills for businesses will also be frozen, much like the bills freeze announced for households two weeks before. But while household bills will be frozen at £2,500 for two years, the cap for firms is currently only set to stay in place for two months.

The Prime Minister has also claimed to be committed to protecting British farmers, arguing in the run up to her leadership campaign that she will make farmers more competitive  “freeing them to grow more sustainable and high-quality British food in order to enhance our nation’s food security”.

She said she wants to protect Britsh farmland from being covered in solar panels. Ms Truss said at a Tory hustings event last month: “Our fields should be filled [with] our fantastic produce…[They] shouldn’t be full of solar panels, and I will change the rules. I will change the rules to make sure…we’re using our high value agricultural land for farming.”

But Mr Swiers does not appear to be convinved by Ms Truss’ commitments. He also argued that Government help currently given is not really “supporting” farmers, only “hindering them less”. He also urged the Government to avoid making rules that are a form of “political tampering”.

He told Express.co.uk: “If you look at food crisis’ in history and what has acutally caused them, it has not been the environment or natural disaster, but it is mostly from Government intervention having a negative effect.”  

The Yorkshireman stressed that “populist ideas” and politics should be kept out well out of the way with regard to farming regulations. He said: “They should try and take the politics out of it and the populist ideas like organic and re-widling and go back to basics of letting farmers do their jobs wihtout interfering.”

But following Ms Truss’ comments over her desire to prevent taking up more farm space, Ms Truss has argualy fused a political issue into the farming space once more. 

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And despite ground-mounted solar panels currently cover just 0.1 percent of all land in the UK, Ms Truss has bizarrely said that she thinks “one of the most depressing sights when you’re driving through England is seeing fields that should be full of crops or livestock, full of solar panels.”

It came after swathes of Conservative MPs recently described solar projects as hazards for rural communities and food supply, which could be an indication the the Prime Minister was attempting to appease Tory voters to win support during her leadership campaign. 

Ben Marlow, chief city commentator of the Telegraph wrote in the publication: “Britain’s culture wars have reached such epically absurd proportions that even the sun is now the enemy.”

And Mr Sweirs is not convinced that Ms Truss really has farmers’ best interests at heart. He told Express.co.uk: “She’s flaky. She says on the one hand that she is going to deregultate and help farmers and then in the next breath makes those comments about solar panels. 

“That is just the typical example. She gives it the big talk but it does’nt look like will actually do much. I would say that the jury is out.”

Express.co.uk has contacted Number 10 Downing Street and DEFRA for comment.

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