Last week, Theresa May said she would step down on June 7, sparking a leadership contest in the Conservative Party. But where do the candidates stand on farming? Abi Kay explores, excluding Gove, as his views are clear.
Elected to Parliament in 2015, Mr Cleverly represents Braintree, a partly rural constituency in Essex.
He is now a junior Minister at the Department for Exiting the EU, where he has responsibility for no-deal planning.
A firm leaver, during the referendum campaign he gave a speech which took aim at the Common Agricultural Policy for ‘making African farmers poor’.
He said: “The CAP subsidises continental European farmers to produce food in quantities we cannot eat… African farmers cannot sell their produce because they are being undercut by the artificially cheap, subsidised food produced by the EU.”
The speech went on to say the EU was ‘no real friend’ to UK farmers who receive EU subsidies, because they only get enough to keep them ‘addicted to EU membership’.
However, on BBC Panorama in 2017, Mr Cleverly did admit the UK Government had not attached enough importance to food and farming.
He said: “Criticism that we as a society, and perhaps as policy makers, have not paid food and farming as much attention as it deserves I think is very, very fair.”
In the House of Commons, Mr Cleverly has raised concerns about the impact of the now-dead Asda-Sainsbury’s merger on farmers and called for better rural broadband, as well as rural transport links.
He has met with farmers in his constituency to discuss, among other things, the dry weather in summer last year.
He also suggested in a Facebook post in 2018 that farmers need time to adjust to policy changes after Brexit, adding he believed Defra Secretary Michael Gove had ensured that would be the case.
Elected in 2010 to represent East Surrey, Mr Gyimah said he had thrown his hat into the ring for the leadership to ‘broaden the race’.
He is the only candidate to call for a second referendum, and has been consistent in his opposition to a no-deal Brexit, telling Parliament in March 2019 it would ‘completely wipe out’ farmers in his constituency.
He regularly meets those farmers in meetings with the NFU and has nominated local businesses for the Countryside Alliance awards.
In January 2018, he was appointed Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, where he was responsible for overseeing the agri-tech strategy, but resigned over Brexit in November the same year.
In his first speech after his resignation, he said the issues surrounding Brexit and agriculture had been ‘kicked into the long grass’.
He voted for the badger cull.
Elected in 2010 to represent the fairly rural seat of West Suffolk, which produces ales, Suffolk cider and cured meats, it is perhaps surprising that Mr Hancock joins a few other leadership contenders in contributing little on food and farming matters when in Parliament.
That said, he is one of several ex-Culture and Media Secretaries in the running, which has given him experience of dealing with rural broadband.
He was also responsible for training and apprenticeships in agriculture during his time as Minister for Skills and Enterprise.
He voted for the badger cull, but was criticised in 2015 for taking money from a climate-sceptic lobby group when he was Minister for Energy and Climate Change.
In 2018, he was appointed Health Secretary, where he has worked on the issue of anti-microbial resistance and paid tribute to the poultry industry for cutting its use of antibiotics.
He is also reported to be pushing for the Food Standards Agency to appoint a new chief executive with a ‘sense of perspective’ after the body criticised Theresa May for saying it was safe to eat jam underneath a layer of mould to reduce food waste.
Since being elected in 2005 to represent the Forest of Dean, which he describes as being a ‘pleasant environment with a number of farms’, Mr Harper has frequently spoken on food and farming matters in Parliament and meets regularly with farmers and rural businesses.
He sponsored a debate on transmissible spongiform encephalopathy regulations, called for farmers to be given compensation when their land floods because of protection for towns, pushed for better rural broadband and supported the badger cull.
He was, however, the Minister for Immigration who scrapped the old Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Scheme in 2013, and in 2018, said if farmers were having trouble hiring people they should pay people more.
The same year, when declaring his support for the Agriculture Bill, he suggested farmers had been ‘obstructed by excessive red tape’ of the CAP.
As another former Culture and Media Secretary, Jeremy Hunt has plenty of experience working on rural broadband, but has contributed little on farming and countryside issues in Parliament during his 14 years in the Commons.
He did present a petition about the closure of rural post offices on behalf of his constituents in 2007, and he also voted for the badger cull.
On his website, his responses to campaign emails show support for grouse shooting, the Agriculture Bill and ‘control’ of live exports, as well as a keenness to protect greenbelt land.
In 2006, he made clear he believed climate change and the environment should be ‘at the top of the agenda’, saying this was a reaffirmation of traditional Conservative beliefs in ‘not only a green and pleasant land but a green and pleasant planet’.
He also suggested Governments should be bound not by long-term climate targets, but goals which applied to their own term of office.
Mr Hunt has spent a good chunk of his time in Parliament – five years – as Health Secretary, where he promised to deliver improvements to hospital food.
At the time, he claimed new legally binding standards would ensure hospitals offered patients fresh fruit 24 hours a day.
Since launching his leadership bid, the Foreign Secretary has taken the unusual position of calling for no-deal to be kept on the table, while at the same time describing it as ‘political suicide’ for the Conservatives.
Since being elected in 2010 to represent Bromsgrove, Mr Javid has often been tipped as a future leader.
As well as voting for the badger cull, he has asked several questions in Parliament on food and farming-related matters, including in 2011 when he questioned what was being done to encourage young people to take up training opportunities in the countryside.
Like Mr Hancock and Mr Hunt, he has previously held the post of Culture and Media Secretary, where he worked on the issue of rural broadband.
He has also been Communities and Local Government Secretary, where he had responsibility for rural housing, and Business Secretary, where he launched a review into burdensome red tape in the farming sector.
In 2018, he took on the role of Home Secretary, where he established a seasonal agricultural workers’ pilot scheme after heavy pressure from industry.
But in October that year, he shocked NFU president Minette Batters by telling her in an aggressive manner that the union ‘could not have everything it wanted’ on access to labour.
Mr Javid was also reported to have outlined a ‘shopping list’ of policies which included ditching environmental regulations during a cabinet meeting in 2018.
He does, however, meet farmers in his patch to discuss their concerns.
As the former Mayor of London and MP for the London seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, it is perhaps not surprising that Mr Johnson has not spoken very much about farming in Parliament.
He did make one contribution in 2008, when he was MP for Henley, about the closure of post offices in rural areas, but most of his campaigning has been done outside the Commons.
In 2014, giving a speech at Bloomberg as the Mayor of London, he said the CAP needed to be ‘further reformed if not abolished’, pointing to EU tariffs on cane sugar which ‘threatened jobs at a London refinery’ as particularly problematic.
During the same year, he wrote an opinion piece for The Telegraph backing the now-dead EU-US trade agreement.
In it, he says people claimed the deal would allow the import of ‘American chickens bathed in chlorine and so genetically modified as to possess three drumsticks per bird, and pale and tasteless American cheese which has been processed to the point of macrobiotic extinction’.
He goes on: “I do not wish in any way to inflame these numskulls, but it is not just that their fears are overdone. They are talking rubbish.
“Almost every single objection to the current proposals is based on pure superstition… whatever goes on in the American meat and poultry industry, it is no more sinister than what happens over here.
“Fears about genetically modified organisms are a load of semi-religious mumbo-jumbo.”
Two years’ later, during the EU referendum campaign, Mr Johnson promised farmers would be able to keep their subsidies during a visit to a cattle market in Clitheroe.
He also cited sheep carcase splitting rules as an example of ‘burdensome’ EU regulation, saying Brexit would provide an opportunity for reform.
This theme was resurrected by Mr Johnson in 2018, when he claimed in an opinion piece for The Sun that leaving the EU would allow the UK to ban the ‘barbaric trade’ of live exports.
At the time, the National Sheep Association accused him of using the issue as a ‘ploy’ to get the public to reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
He has now said the UK should leave the EU on October 31 2019 with or without a deal.
Most readers will be well aware of Mrs Leadsom’s rural record, given her very recent stint as Defra Secretary from 2016-2017.
She did not win many friends in the farming community during the EU referendum campaign, when she said ‘those with the big fields should do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies’.
She was also criticised during her time at Defra for failing to provide any clarity about what farming’s post-Brexit future looked like and for sitting on the 25-Year Environment Plan and 25-Year Food Plan, which was eventually scrapped.
Mrs Leadsom was, however, full-throated in her support for the badger cull, saying she wanted to extend it.
More recently, in 2019, she said livestock farming provides environmental benefits when quizzed about whether people should cut their meat consumption.
Elected to Parliament in 2015, Mr Malthouse cut his political teeth in London where he was Deputy Mayor for Policing and later Business and Enterprise under Boris Johnson.
But since taking up his seat representing rural North West Hampshire, he has called for better rural broadband and suggested the Small Business Commissioner’s remit, which is to ensure fair payment practices, should be extended to cover the Government so farmers would receive their BPS on time.
He also, in 2017, said a processor in his constituency was ‘salivating’ at the prospect of opening up the US market, where Welsh lamb is ‘under-represented’.
Mr Malthouse returned to the lamb theme during one of his first interviews after entering the leadership contest.
Speaking to LBC, he said lamb which could not be exported in a no-deal Brexit needed to end up on ‘British dining room tables’, adding it could be sent to hospitals and schools.
He also suggested farmers may need to be compensated for any ‘damage’ and called on a future Government to be more ‘transparent’ about no-deal preparations.
Responses to campaign emails from constituents on his website show Mr Malthouse is supportive of ‘general moves’ to use fewer pesticides in food production, but he believes a total ban on neonicotinoids may mean ‘increased use of foliar insecticides’ which ‘definitely kill bees’.
He also suggested CCTV in slaughterhouses has ‘limitations’ and relies on businesses to monitor their operations appropriately.
An enthusiastic no-deal supporter, Ms McVey regularly met farmers in her Wirral West constituency before losing her seat at the 2015 election, even bringing ex-Secretary of State Owen Paterson along to one meeting in 2013.
This is a practice she has continued since being elected to represent Tatton in 2017.
In 2018, she also started to hold informal drop-in sessions in the more rural parts of the constituency to allow constituents to raise their concerns.
She said: “It was important for me to get to the most rural parts of the constituency and ensure people who want to see me and meet and discuss issues could.
“Not everyone can get to constituency surgeries or the office and sessions like these are really good as I get to know more people and hear of any concerns they have.”
Despite these regular meetings, Ms McVey has not discussed food and farming-related issues very often in Parliament – though she has called for more investment in high-speed rural broadband and for goat and sheep farmers to get TB compensation.
Mr Raab has represented the partly rural seat of Esher and Walton since 2010, but has spoken very little about farming or countryside issues in Parliament over the past nine years.
He did, however, write a piece for Conservative Home in 2015 on Green policy, which said the party would “compound the cost of EU farm subsidies by regulating ‘fair prices’ for farmers – a sure-fire way to hike the average family’s food bill.”
In 2013, Mr Raab called for the two environment departments, the Department for Energy and Climate Change and Defra, to be merged to save cash.
He also said the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Offices should be subsumed by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
This is a theme he has returned to in his bid to become leader, when he suggested closing or merging Government departments would help him fund his pledge to reduce the basic rate of income tax by 5p.
In the Commons, his main contributions around farming were on food security in 2011, when he expressed concern about the greening of the CAP removing land from production, 2012, when he set out his support for protecting the greenbelt and 2013, when he asked about rural broadband.
He voted for the badger cull.
As Housing Minister, he had responsibility for the issue of rural homes, before being appointed Brexit Secretary in 2018.
While at the Department for Exiting the EU, he was responsible for no-deal planning, including ensuring adequate food supplies, and also became familiar with Brexit-related environmental issues.
In July 2018, he said the CAP had ‘held back productivity and not delivered the scale of environmental improvement we need’, adding the UK needed a ‘more dynamic, self-reliant agricultural industry’ in future.
He has called for a no-deal Brexit to be kept on the table.
Representing the rural seat of Penrith and the Border, and spending over a year as Environment Minister at Defra, Mr Stewart has more experience than most MPs of farming-related issues.
During his time at Defra, he spoke on soil health, rural broadband, bovine TB and supply chain fairness in Parliament.
He has also taken the slightly odd position of saying what makes him a Conservative is wanting to ‘subsidise hill farmers to the hilt’.
Speaking at a UK and EU event in May 2019, he said: “I guess I am a Conservative because I have eccentric views which are not shared by my Labour colleagues, views which are not really completely rational.
“I am romantic about the monarchy, the British army, about small upland farmers. There are two traditions in the Conservative tradition, there is the Whig tradition and the Tory tradition.
“I am a sort of Tory. I want to subsidise small farmers to the hilt. I love them – I think the small sheep farmers are our culture, they are our history, we would miss them terribly if they went from the Lake District.
“I support the French Common Agricultural Policy because it subsidises small farmers.”
But Mr Stewart’s comments have not always been so well-received by the farming community.
In 2010, shortly after his election, he was forced to apologise for saying parts of his constituency were ‘pretty primitive’, with ‘people holding up their trousers with bits of twine’.