In the latest Shape Your Farming Future series, Abi Kay speaks to four MPs who are throwing their weight behind Farmers Guardian’s campaign.
As regular readers will know, Farmers Guardian has been a Brexit trailblazer, setting out week-after-week what grassroots farmers hope for when the UK leaves the EU, as part of our Shape Your Farming Future campaign.
Now FG wants to give you an exclusive opportunity to put your questions to the people who have the power to set the political agenda and influence Government decisions.
Four MPs who sit on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Select Committee, including its chairman, have agreed to take part in FG’s Brexit question competition.
The MPs represent seats in England, Scotland and Wales and come from a mix of political parties.
Until April 14, you will have the opportunity to submit your Brexit questions, at which point the Farmers Guardian team will choose the best 10 for answer.
Do you have a question? Just send it in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please remember to include your name and farm details. If preferred, you can send a written submission, including the same details, to:
Abi Kay, Farmers Guardian, Unit 4, Fulwood Business Park, Caxton Road, Preston, PR2 9NZ.
Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton
“Leaving the EU offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity for this country to redesign Britain’s agricultural rules and regulations. Defra is perhaps affected more than any other department by the vote to leave the EU.
“A new British agricultural support system will have to be created and funded domestically. A raft of environmental laws and regulations, from air quality to pesticides, will have to be refounded in British law. British food and drink could face tariffs to enter the EU market for the first time in four decades. The change will be enormous.
“As chairman of the Efra Select Committee, I will be holding the Government to account on all these areas. To do so effectively, we need to hear from as many people affected by these changes as possible.
“This is why I am looking forward to receiving a range of great Brexit questions from Farmers Guardian readers to help us kickstart this process.”
Dr Paul Monaghan, MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross
“I am delighted to participate in the FG Brexit question competition and look forward to bringing a Scottish perspective to this vitally important debate.
“Brexit is being viewed variously as an opportunity or as the single greatest economic threat in living memory. Either way, we can be absolutely certain farming and the agricultural sector generally will be affected.
“From my perspective, as both an MP representing a rural area and as a member of the Efra Select Committee, it is vital crofters, farmers, suppliers and producers have the opportunity to make their voices heard and receive answers to their key questions and concerns.
“Whether you farm soft fruits, crops, dairy, beef, sheep and goats, pigs or poultry, service the sector or represent it, Brexit will undoubtedly create major challenges. I see this opportunity to engage with farmers directly and to learn of their concerns.
“This is an important initiative which will help ensure standards and future policies are shaped to meet the needs of the agricultural sector.”
Chris Davies, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire
“I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in this competition and I am glad to see FG taking the lead on getting the public involved in the process.
“For me, it is vital policy-makers keep an open dialogue with the public – after all, we are their representatives in Parliament.
“My own constituency is a farming constituency and the biggest issue many farmers face is Brexit. This is why I have agreed to take part in the competition, to allow farmers to ask policy-makers the big questions they want answers to.
“Whether this is on single farm payments, access to European and global markets or even animal welfare issues, it is vital farmers have assurances from policy-makers that they have our focus when it comes to Brexit negotiations.
“This is an opportunity for our farmers. It is an opportunity to branch out and sell our high-quality produce around the world; it is an opportunity to revamp the financial support farmers receive; and it is an opportunity to do trade deals to help to make our produce more competitive around the world.”
Angela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge
“Brexit is the most difficult challenge faced by our country since the end of World War Two.
“As a member of the Efra Select Committee and someone who has worked with many rural organisations over the years, including the NFU and CLA, I have some understanding of just how extensively Brexit will impact on the rural economy.
“Since joining the European Economic Community in 1973, British farming has felt keenly the impact of European decision-making and faces a very uncertain future.
“The negotiations which start once Article 50 has been triggered will shape the future of our agricultural sector for generations to come and Parliament will need to keep itself informed as to the potential impact on farmers, in terms of financial support for what they do and in relation to their trading relationship with European partners.
“As we start the negotiation process, farmers and others interested in our rural economy will no doubt have many concerns and questions about not only the process, but what the future may look like. It is therefore important decision-makers and those in positions of influence listen to these concerns.
“This is why FG’s idea of asking members of the Efra Select Committee to engage with its readers is a positive step and why I am more than happy to support it.”
Alongside the question competition, FG is also asking readers to push their MPs to support Farmers Guardian’s Shape Your Farming Future campaign.
We want to ensure the UK gets the right Brexit deal for farmers and the best possible agricultural policy outside the EU.
You can help us achieve this, but not by standing on the sidelines. We need you to get involved and shape your farming future.
We have created an email you can send direct to your MP, with as many, or as few, changes as you like.
All you have to do is visit www.fginsight.com/farming-future to download the document. We have also provided a link to the parliament website where you can enter your postcode to find your MP’s details.