With Brexit on hold, potentially until October 31, it is becoming increasingly likely that the UK will have to take part in the European elections on May 23. But what are the different parties’ positions on agriculture policy? Abi Kay finds out.
Angela Smith, TIG MP and member of the Efra Select Committee, said the party believed in a ‘reformed European Union’.
“We also believe policy needs to be evidence-based and in that context scope for reform of the CAP is clear,” she added.
“Reform of the CAP could take many forms and look at many aspects of the scheme, but at the heart of it should be a significant extension of the use of public monies to secure improved environmental outcomes.”
A Conservative spokesman told Farmers Guardian it remains the Government’s intention to ratify a deal which allows the UK to leave the EU before European elections take place on May 23, but preparations were taking place should that not prove possible.
“As we leave the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), we will create a system which delivers for farmers,” the spokesman added.
“We are doing this through our landmark Agriculture Bill, which will allow us to maintain and enhance environmental protections, safeguard animal welfare and support the production of high-quality food for future generations.”
Molly Scott-Cato, Green Brexit spokesman, said the party would ‘continue to support’ public subsidy for farming, with social and environmental goods provided in return and climate-friendly agriculture prioritised.
“Our aim for farming would be to produce good, local, GMO and pesticide-free food,” she added.
“We want fair prices for farmers rather than agribusiness profiting while farmers go bust.
“Greens continue to oppose factory farming and live-animal transport and to defend high welfare standards for farm animals.
“We are deeply concerned about the loss of wildlife in our countryside and are working hard to ensure the most toxic pesticides are banned, while farmers are supported to shift towards more sustainable production methods.”
Shadow Defra Secretary Sue Hayman said the Labour Party was still working on its agriculture manifesto.
“Anything we do would be based around ensuring a sustainable long-term future for farming, which is what we have been saying we want to do for some time and what we want to put through the Agriculture Bill,” she added.
Labour is in the process of consulting on a Food Plan which covers a range of topics including food production, farmers’ mental health, farm workers’ incomes and supply chain fairness, but it will not be ready before May.
A spokesman for the party told Farmers Guardian it was Liberal Democrat policy to push for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as a member of the EU.
“In principle, we support the public money for public goods principle which encourages farmers to do more for the environment, but we have unique landscapes such as the uplands which need specific support,” said the spokesman.
“The CAP is in need of reform, but because of Brexit, this Government has lost an opportunity to feed into the latest changes.
“If we had taken a more active approach, we could have got some of the public money for public goods principles included.”
Plaid Cymru candidates will stand on a platform to remain in the EU after holding a second referendum, with Shadow Rural Affairs Minister Llyr Gruffydd describing Brexit as ‘the greatest threat to upland family farms’.
But if Brexit does happen, Plaid Cymru would fight to ensure all European funding, including farm payments, is replaced by the UK Government.
Other policies include maintaining the moratorium on GM crops and the EU’s ban on neonicotinoids.
Plaid Cymru also pledges to create a new Wildlife Act for Wales.
Alyn Smith MEP told Farmers Guardian if Scotland was taken out of the EU, the Scottish Government would want to ‘maintain Pillar 1 payments and beef up Pillar 2 as an add-on, not a replacement’, but also pointed out this was not the SNP’s preferred option.
“One of the best things we can do for agriculture is stop Brexit,” he said.
“We would like to see Article 50 revoked altogether, and if a majority cannot be found at Westminster for that, we would see a second referendum as a way out.
“We are fighting to stay in the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Farmers have had a cottage industry in criticising CAP red tape and green tape, but when compared to losing it altogether, the world looks very different.”
SDP leader William Clouston has confirmed his party will not field candidates in the European elections because they ‘lack democratic legitimacy’ coming almost three years after the referendum and their late announcement ‘precludes smaller parties from competing fairly’.
Agriculture policies of the SDP include ‘prioritising investment in new technology’ to move farming away from subsidy, increasing spending on land-based education and forcing public bodies to source food directly from local producers.
A spokesman said UKIP’s agriculture policies would remain the same as those drawn up in its ‘interim manifesto’ published in September 2018.
UKIP’s agriculture spokesman, Stuart Agnew, would also seek a position on the Agriculture Committee.