Defra Secretary Michael Gove says he is determined to make the case for long term investment in British farming, ahead of the Government’s Spending Review.
With uncertainty being one of the few constants in farming going into the New Year, Mr Gove has acknowledged farmers need certainty to plan for and invest in their businesses as they look to the future.
Speaking at today’s Oxford Farming Conference, Mr Gove said: “A week can be a long time in politics, but farming requires the patience and foresight to see beyond the immediate and scan the far horizon.
"It is a quintessentially long-term business, one that benefits from as much certainty as possible about the future.
“While I cannot pre-empt the outcome of the Government’s Spending Review later this year, I can continue to demonstrate the case for, and put in place the policies that underpin, long-term investment in British agriculture and the rural economy.”
Asked whether the Government could guarantee the current £3.2 billion budget for agriculture, Mr Gove replied ’yes, it is guaranteed to the end of the Parliament’, adding there was an ’argument’ to push for more.
Investment would be targeted at research, development and innovation, including accelerating technological advances such as the drive towards artificial intelligence, more sophisticated analysis of big data and machine learning and robotics, which will all improve the sector’s productivity.
Attracting the skills and talent needed to forge ahead with agriculture’s ‘fourth revolution’ was also crucial.
Mr Gove also used his platform at the opening of the two day event to reiterate his support for the Prime Minister’s Minister’s Brexit deal which he said would see the UK leave the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, while avoiding the disruption of a no deal.
“It [the deal] is not perfect – but let us not make the perfect the enemy of the good,” said Mr Gove.
“It not only gives us a 21 month transition period in which current access is completely unaffected, it also allows us to maintain continuous tariff-free and quota-free access to EU markets for our exporters after that.
“It allows us largely to diverge from EU regulation after the transition, to leave the Common Agricultural Policy and end all mandatory payments to the EU.”
He said extra phytosanitary checks at the borders resulting from a no deal scenario and the impact on hauliers and others in the chain meant the costs to food producers would undoubtedly increase.
Mr Gove, who was due to address the neighbouring Oxford Real Farming Conference later today, added leaving the EU would allow Britain’s farmers – contributors to the £113 billion food and drink sector - to be world leaders, both in food production and stewardship of the environment.
He highlighted the policy reforms underway including the shake-up of farming regulation led by Dame Glenys Stacey.