Thank you for contacting me about support for farmers in Agriculture Bill.
In our predominantly rural constituency I would like to assure you that I fully appreciate, and indeed am very sympathetic to your concerns and I have taken note of your comments.
Food and farming is a bedrock of our economy and environment, in the UK generating £112 billion a year and helping shape some of our finest habitats and landscapes. I am pleased that the Government has guaranteed the current annual budget in every year of the new Parliament, giving significant certainty on funding for the coming years. Nearly £3 billion of funding will top up the remaining EU funding to match the total funding for direct payments that was available for 2019.
I agree that many farmers are currently doing amazing things to benefit wildlife and counter the effects of climate change. I am pleased that now we have left the European Union, this country has the chance to tailor its agriculture policy to encourage this further. We will move away from the EU’s bureaucratic Common Agricultural Policy and towards a fairer system where hard-working farmers are paid public money for the public goods they deliver. I understand that payments will be made for activities such as conserving plants grown or used in agricultural, horticultural or forestry activity. Land management actions which improve the quality of soil are also being considered.
I am aware that land managers in receipt of Direct Payments are also required to protect hedgerows on their land. Through agri-environment schemes, such as Countryside Stewardship, their valuable role is recognised, funding the management of hedgerows to deliver recognised benefits for wildlife, landscape and the historic environment.
Finally, as a veterinary surgeon, I welcome the Government’s very clear commitment that any future trade agreements must uphold the UK’s high levels of food safety, animal welfare standards, and environmental protection. Indeed, as a member of the EFRA Select Committee, I have joined in signing an amendment to the Agriculture Bill from our Committee to that effect calling for these standards to be upheld in any future trade deals. I have also raised this speaking on the floor of the House. I am also aware that the EU Withdrawal Act transferred all existing EU food safety provisions onto the UK statute book, and Ministers have made clear these standards will not be watered down in pursuit of any trade deal now that the UK has left the EU.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
With best wishes