Farming industry sets out priorities to the new Environment Secretary

Farm leaders have urged Theresa Villiers, the new Environment Secretary, to ensure the UK leaves the EU in a smooth and orderly manner, which includes free and frictionless trade with the EU.

The National Farmers Union, The National Office of Animal Health, the Country Land and Business Association and the Food and Drink Federation have all welcomed Mrs Villiers to her new role and have said how they all look forward to working with her.

NFU president Minette Batters highlighted that British farming is proud to produce some of the highest quality food in the world and she said she looks forward to working with the new Secretary of State to showcase the incredibly high standards to which British farmers deliver food for the nation, alongside caring for our animals and the countryside.

“I invite Ms Villiers to join me on my farm so she can see first-hand the work that goes in to producing the country’s food and its potential for the future,” said Mrs Batters.

“When it comes to her political priorities, safeguarding Britain’s food producers and our domestic food supply has never been more important. Leaving the EU, our closest neighbours and trading partners, in a smooth and orderly way is vital to allow farm businesses to have a viable and sustainable future – continuing to produce food to some of the highest global standards while protecting and maintaining our iconic British landscape.”

Mrs Batters added: “That’s why we urge the new Secretary of State to follow up on the promise of her predecessor and commit to a high-level commission to avoid British food production standards being undermined in the pursuit of post-Brexit trade deals.”

In a letter sent to the new Secretary of State, the NFU has highlighted five immediate policy priorities for Defra:

  • A comprehensive impact assessment of the potential impacts of Brexit on the farming sector;
  • A fully developed and reinvigorated policy on improving productivity in agriculture;
  • A Trade and Standards Commission to be established to ensure our high standards of production are not undermined by our future trade policy;
  • A food-focused agricultural policy that rewards farmers fairly for the delivery of public goods; and
  • Measures to strengthen farmers’ position in the supply chain including a market review.

Mrs Batters said: “Government must develop an agricultural policy that encourages productive farming, allows farmers to continue to produce safe, traceable and affordable food for everyone and be custodians of the countryside. We need policies in place that allow farming businesses to innovate, support investment in new technologies to help farmers in the fight against climate change and allow farms access to a competent and reliable workforce.”

National Office of Animal Health
NOAH said it looks forward to working with Mrs Villiers, and her team, to promote high standards of UK animal health and welfare.

Dawn Howard, NOAH’s chief executive, said:“Leaving the EU without a deal presents a serious risk to the seamless supply of the medicines our animals need to protect their health and prevent disease and suffering, despite the extensive preparation for this eventuality that our members and government departments have carried out. We are keen to continue working with Government to develop more detailed plans to safeguard supplies.

“The Government now has the opportunity to take decisive action to increase farming resilience to ensure the long-term future for those farming to UK’s high health and welfare standards, as well as ensuring continued access to medicines for our vets, farmers and pet owners, as we leave the EU and beyond.”

Country Land and Business Association
CLA president Tim Breitmeyer said: “We welcome Mrs Villiers to her new role as Secretary of State at Defra. We look forward to working together to ensure a healthy farming sector can help to meet the environmental challenges we collectively face, while delivering a prosperous rural economy.

“We’ve noted Mrs Villiers’ recent comments on a no deal Brexit and resulting WTO tariffs, but we know there are many farmers across the country with grave concerns. Currently 60% of our food exports go to the EU. Were draconian tariffs put in place, world class British produce would become uncompetitive in our largest market overnight.

“Having said that, there are also tremendous opportunities. We are global leaders in producing quality food to high environmental and welfare standards. As landowners we are key to meeting ambitions on climate change and the environment. The rural economy has extraordinary potential ready to be unleashed. But only an ambitious, creative and robust policy platform will support all of this.

“She replaces Mr Gove who we wish well in his new role working across Government. We hope that he continues to champion the needs of our sector in his new brief.”

Food and Drink Federation
FDF chief executive Ian Wright said: “We are very much looking forward to working with the new Secretary of State and building on our extremely positive relationship with Defra.

“As set out in the industry’s Plan for Success – we eagerly anticipate the creation of a much-needed National Food Strategy which encourages growth, respect for food and drink as an essential resource, and which drives sustainable consumption and production.

“Alongside partners from the Food and Drink Sector Council, we stand ready to deliver a thriving and productive UK food and drink industry which boosts the UK economy and provides abundant choice for shoppers.”

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