Liberal Democrat agricultural spokesperson Tim Farron explains why his party is launching a campaign to Back British Farmers.
British farmers have been let down by the Conservatives. They’ve been promised that British standards will not be undermined, yet this hasn’t been guaranteed in law.
They’ve been promised that levels of funding will be maintained, yet the transition will see huge amounts of income lost.
And the Government is still expecting our farmers to be the stewards of our landscape, and work with us to cut emissions and help maintain and improve our natural environment – but if they’re not careful there won’t be any farmers left.
Family farmers are the backbone of our countryside, and that’s why the Liberal Democrats are launching a campaign to ‘Back British Farmers.’
Alongside launching this campaign, I am introducing a Ten Minute Rule Bill in Parliament to create a new environmental and agricultural regulator, to better protect our farmers and our natural environment.
The Conservatives have pledged to create a new ‘Office for Environmental Protection’ (OEP) as part of their Environment Bill.
This would enforce environmental standards, but not agricultural ones, and lacks teeth to force the Government to act if they’re found in breach.
Furthermore, they first pledged to create this regulator in 2018 and we still don’t know for sure when it will become law.
Our regulator will have those teeth, it will ensure that the Government can be held to account, but it also goes further.
It will have responsibility for ensuring that trade deals meet UK standards on environmental protection and animal welfare – protecting our farmers from cheap, poor quality food made to significantly lower standards.
British family farmers are vital in the fight against the climate and nature crises.
We need our farmers to help plant trees, build natural flood defences and restore peat bogs, all while producing food for our tables and protecting our countryside.
The new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELM) should incentivise farmers to do all these things, but the Government is botching the transition.
They’ve already started phasing out farmers payments without even making it clear what things farmers will be rewarded for doing.
This risks farmers having no choice but to make poor environmental choices in order to maximise income to survive the transition – the very opposite of what the Tories want.
Worse still, many farmers will be contemplating leaving the industry entirely, robbing us of the stewards of our landscape we need.
The Liberal Democrats have realised what is wrong.
The Tories simply do not understand farmers or farming communities and the vital importance of the work they do.
They’re stubbornly pressing ahead without listening to the very people they’re relying on to assist them.
This is particularly short-sighted as the extol the virtues of nature-based solutions to the climate emergency in the run up to COP26 in Glasgow.
Liberal Democrats understand British farmers, and that’s why we’re launching our campaign to ‘Back British Farmers’ and will continue to fight to protect them from the damage the Conservatives want to do.
Without British farmers, the race to solve the climate and nature crises will be lost.
Tim can be found tweeting at @TimFarron