The DUP MP secured a debate in Westminster this afternoon.
Speaking afterwards Carla Lockhart said, “The agri-food sector plays a key role in the life of our nation, with the importance of food security having been underscored over recent years. In common with households and other businesses, energy costs have spiralled but farmers have not seen the same levels of support provided to them.
Ahead of the Chancellor’s Spring Statement I joined with many others, including our farming unions to call for a change in mindset in relation to support for farmers with energy costs. Current support under the Energy Bill Relief Scheme is due to expire at the end of this month and will be replaced with the Energy Bill Discount Scheme. This offers far less protection however, with the price cap replaced with a token discount. A pre-defined selection of industries has been identified for additional support within the Energy and Trade Intensive Industry scheme, but the farming sector has been omitted from this.
In the face of this cliff edge the call was for the Chancellor to include energy intensive sectors such as horticultural, poultry and pig production to the scheme. This was a reasonable and evidence-based ask but one which was ignored by the Chancellor.
It is a decision that will have consequences and those may be too much for some farms forced to exit the industry. Others will reduce output and there will be a direct impact on UK food production which will feed through the supply chain and food inflation may well increase. Ultimately consumers will end up paying more.
There is still the opportunity for a re-think and it is in the interests of Government, the agri-food sector and consumers that this happens. We need to back British farming. Government demands the highest standards of our farmers, and must repay their endeavours to produce world class produce to the best animal welfare, environmental and sustainable with sufficient levels of support to do just that.”