Farm work can be physically and emotionally demanding, especially during the busiest parts of the year. Jobs are often associated with low-pay, precarity, indecent living conditions, and a lack of working rights.

Sustain believes that farming can be a sector that offers prosperous career opportunities, which are attractive to people living in Britain and for people migrating to the UK.

Briefing: Why would anyone want to pick our crops?

The food growers that we talk to are worried about their future. As the UK leaves the European Union and immigration policy looks likely to be tightened, many farmers are beginning to ask – who will grow and pick the crops?

Sustain submission: Farming labour constraints

  • We lack an efficient and effective collective sector bargaining body for agriculture workers in England. When the Government removed the Agriculture Wages Board (AWB) in England in 2013 they removed a fair and effective means by which farmers and land managers could agree annual wages, with grades and additional issues such as overtime, housing and sick pay. Wales and Scotland still have agriculture sector wage boards; England did not.
  • The new framework for supporting farmers for delivery of public goods should include ensuring a baseline of worker wages (such as the real Living Wage) and labour conditions as criteria for entry into the new support system.
  • Fairer supply chain – the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator needs to be extended to protect farmers from unfair trading practices in the whole supply chain, helping farmers and growers better to manage their businesses and be able to provide decent conditions for workers.
  • Promoting quality jobs via farm diversity and peri-urban food systems – evidence from across Europe and in the UK confirms that smaller farm holdings are more labour-intensive than larger ones. A diverse and vibrant sector of small farms provides employment, attracting new entrants and incubating entrepreneurs.
  • We need better measurement and far more resources to enforce labour standards to eliminate slavery and end worker abuse in the UK food system. A further consideration should be the numbers working overseas to provide food for the UK, protected with stronger modern slavery rules on action and reporting by companies.

Download Agricultural Labour in the UK

Sustainable Farming Campaign: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.

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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

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