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Family farmers are being let down by a reckless Conservative Government

Family farmers are the backbone of our countryside, they’ve shaped our landscape over many centuries - the reason why people flock to our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty every year, writes Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman Tim Farron.

Our family farmers have a vital role to play going forward, we need them to recover our natural environment and tackle the climate emergency.

 

But they are being let down, let down by this reckless Conservative Government which is pursuing trade deals with scant regard for what our farmers need.

 

As I write, the Trade Bill is about to pass through its final stages in Parliament, and despite Liberal Democrat attempts to protect our farmers, the Tories have rejected every amendment.

 

Despite promising to maintain our high environmental and animal welfare standards, they have consistently failed to write that promise into the Bill.

 

Teeth

 

While they have worked with the National Farmers Union to create a new Trade and Agriculture Commission to scrutinise future trade deals, it simply does not have strong enough teeth to reject trade deals damaging to our family farmers.

 

To further compound these failings, last week the Conservatives delayed their long-awaited Environment Bill by another six months.

 

The Bill will set targets for improving biodiversity and water quality and create a new Office of Environmental Protection (OEP) to assess progress.

 

This Bill combined with the new Agriculture Act will form the basis for the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMs) due to replace our current farming payments in the years to come.

 

Improvement

 

Liberal Democrats support ELMs. Rewarding farmers for delivering environmental goods is a significant improvement.

 

However, this delay means that our farmers still have no idea what they will be rewarded for, while the Government is already phasing out the existing Basic Payments without the replacement being ready.

 

This will lead to many farmers reconsidering what they’re doing.

 

It could lead to them having no choice but to cut the environmental goods they are already delivering to ensure they can make ends meet until the new scheme starts.

 

Goodbye

 

Worse still, they take the Government’s offer of a golden goodbye, take the money and quit altogether – robbing us the experience we need.

 

Without our family farmers restoring our peat bogs, who is going to create new natural flood protections and who is going to manage the land to encourage the recovery of species?

 

The Tories have had many opportunities to protect our family farmers, but have failed at every opportunity.

Liberal Democrats back British farmers.

 

Undercut

 

We want our farmers to be able to farm without worrying if imported food will undercut the high standards they are meeting.

 

We want them to be rewarded for delivering environmental goods without worrying that they will be losing money without it being replaced.

 

We want them to continue to put food on our plates, and to continue the important role they play in communities across the length and breadth of this country.

 

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