New Defra Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom has sent a statement to Farmers Weekly, the farming newspaper. Although the paper has not published the full statement, here are the quotes it uses:
“Nothing is more important than the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink”.
“On 23 June, the people of this country voted to leave the European Union and we must now carry out their instruction,” she said.
“I believe this give us an unparalleled chance to design a set of policies that are tailored to the needs of the UK, rather than 28 different member states. We must seize the opportunities that lie ahead.”
The Secretary of State said the UK should work with our European neighbours “so that we get the best terms for the industry”.
“My ministers and I will lead from the front in these negotiations, championing the industry and all that it has to offer.
“Britain is a truly great country that has always thrived and prospered on the world stage. We have always been a leading economic power, opening markets and championing free trade across the world. And with your top-quality products, drive and innovation, we will continue to do so.”
She said farming was central to our national identity and important to local communities.
“Food and farming generates more than £100bn/year for our economy, while managing nearly three-quarters of the UK’s land. The sector is a bedrock of our economy and environment.
“So while much of our focus will understandably be on the future of farming when we leave the EU, we will not lose sight of the challenges we face now, such as low farm prices, the shortage of skills and apprenticeships and of course the scourge that is bovine TB.”
Speaking about the interregnum, which could be two or more years, she made the obvious point that the UK was still part of the EU and it would be “business as usual”.
“The current arrangements for food, farming and the environment remain in place. Farmers will continue to receive their support payments”
“Our continued investment in state-of-the-art science and technology is making our farmers among the most efficient and productive in the world.
“We are recognised as a global hub of agricultural research, leading the way in finding solutions to some of the world’s greatest agricultural challenges.
“The Great British brand is stronger than ever, renowned across the globe for its quality, innovation and tradition.
“Whether it’s English cheese, Scotch whisky, Welsh lamb or Northern Irish beef, people want to buy our products. International trade is at the heart of our economy.”
Mrs Leadsom said the UK had a real opportunity to forge strong economic links with our European neighbours, as well as our friends in North America, the Commonwealth and other countries around the world.
“As we draw up our plans, it is vital we harness your knowledge, experience and common sense. We will make sure your voices are heard,” she said.
“While there is much to be done, I am enthusiastic and positive about the task ahead. British farming has a proud heritage and by working together, we can ensure it has an even greater future.”
So, not much if anything new here – I have already laid out what she has already said, here.
What is interesting is the tone and what she has not said.
She claimed farming as “the bedrock” of the environment, which is of course precisely the opposite of the truth.
Her emphasis is on free trade, productivity, technology, research and brand.
Communities were mentioned only once, which will do little to calm the nerves of upland communities, utterly dependant as they currently are, on farm subsidies.
She said nothing about the need to protect soil, or nature, or that farmers needed to play a key role in mitigating the effects of, and adapting to climate change. On the plus side she avoided mentioning any need to “feed the world”.
But she did specifically mention the “scourge” of Bovine TB. That sounds to me like a signal that more badger cull areas will be announced soon.