Farmers union to ’empty chair’ Liz Truss as she swerves rural hustings

Liz Truss will be ’empty chaired’ by members of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) following the news that she has refused to attend the rural hustings scheduled for later today.

Rishi Sunak – Truss’ rival in the Conservative Party leadership contest – will be addressing union members at the hustings, but despite pleas from the president of the NFU, Truss has refused to attend.

Farmers would have been likely to the foreign secretary on about recent accusations from the environment secretary, George Eustice, that she refused to enshrine animal welfare standards in trade deals.

NFU president Minette Batters said it was a “shame” Truss would not be attending the hustings.

“It doesn’t bode well – George Eustice has made his comments – you would think she would want to put her marker down,” she said, adding that the recent drought and economic downturn meant it was more important than ever that Truss made herself available to discuss rural policy.

READ MORE: Ministers have “no understanding of how food production works”, NFU warns

She said: “I have offered to meet her anywhere. I’ve offered to do it virtually, we aren’t tied to any location or anything. But it doesn’t look likely. It’s disappointing, as it’s not just about farming – food is such a critical subject, water is so critical to everybody, especially at the moment.”

Post-Brexit trade deals with other countries and a recent controversial trade deal with New Zealand have left UK farmers feeling dissatisfied and let down by the government’s actions.

Truss’s team said she “cannot turn up to everything”.

At today’s hustings, Sunak is expected to lay out his farming plan to NFU members. His team has said he will “support farmers in all future UK trade deals, taking time to get the trade deals right, rather than rushing them through to meet artificial self-imposed deadlines”.

He has also promised to maintain and boost domestic food production through a UK food security target, and introduce a “buy local” target for the public sector, prioritising UK products over imports.

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