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Defra Secretary Andrea Leadsom must 'hit the ground running' in developing new British agricultural policy



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Mrs Leadsom, who campaigned to leave the EU, was appointed yesterday (Thursday) in Prime Minister Theresa May’s major Cabinet reshuffle.

 

She replaced Liz Truss, who had been widely tipped for promotion throughout her time at Defra. Mrs Truss is now in charge of the Justice brief, taking over from Michael Gove.

 

NFU president Meurig Raymond said while the union was looking forward to working with Defra’s new Minister to form a new domestic agricultural policy with growth, innovation, productivity and profitability at its heart, there were ‘many issues’ which needed to be addressed immediately.

 

Mr Raymond said: “We need a simpler application process and improved delivery for BPS; we need a guarantee from Government that agreements for farmers in agri-environment schemes will be honoured in full; we need a continuing commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy.

 

“There are many uncertainties to overcome – trade agreements, labour, financial support, legislation are all up in the air.”

 

The union is currently consulting with its members in order to feed the industry’s demands back to the Government.

 

Uncertainty

 

CLA president Ross Murray said highest on his organisation’s agenda would be moves to reduce uncertainty in the wake of the Brexit vote.

 

He added: “We will be asking Andrea Leadsom to make swift commitments on five priority issues for the rural economy – ensuring direct payments up to 2020; honouring agri-environment agreements; establishing a new food, farming and environmental policy to succeed and better the CAP; engaging in full and clear consultation with farmers; and honouring commitments under current EU structural fund programmes.”

 

Liberal Democrat party leader and South Lakes MP Tim Farron urged Mrs Leadsom to keep to her referendum promises, after she told farmers ‘the UK Government will give you that same money when we leave the EU’.

 

Mr Farron has written to the new Minster asking her to honour that pledge.

 

Promises

 

Mr Farron said: “Now is the time for Andrea Leadsom to honour the promises she made to our farmers during the referendum campaign. She must protect the support that our farmers rely on. She must back up her promises with action.

 

“The farming community is under a lot of pressure at the moment, and without this support even more farmers will be driven under. I will do all I can to fight to protect our farmers.”

 

Jonnie Hall, NFU Scotland’s director of policy said trade and the movement of labour was a key concern for the sector and urged the Secretary of State to ‘hit the ground running’ on the issue.

 

He added: “With agriculture and the environment’s high stakes in the EU negotiation, NFU Scotland welcomes the appointment of Andrea Leadsom as Secretary of State and will communicate with her early on in her new role to emphasise the importance of her securing a settlement that recognises provenance and quality that benefits not just farmers and crofters in Scotland but the whole rural economy.

 

Confidence

 

“With a background in banking and finance, and having held positions within the Treasury and DECC more recently, it is hoped that Mrs Leadsom will recognise the importance of maintaining confidence and investment to secure a vibrant food and farming industry for the future.”

 

Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett called on Defra to extend its commitment to the environment by ‘ruling out the return of bee harming pesticides’ and protect the UK from flooding and heatwaves.

 

"British farming now has to make the case for the public money it receives - we should not be subsidising unsustainable food production or farming practices which fail to protect and preserve Britain’s green and pleasant land,” said Mr Bennett.

 


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