Leaving the EU: Economic Viability of Farming

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th March 2018.

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Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade and Investment) 12:00 am, 8th March 2018

What steps he is taking to support the economic viability of farming after the UK leaves the EU.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Leaving the European Union provides the UK with an opportunity to improve the profitability of the agriculture sector. In our consultation document, we set out an approach to support that objective, and we are seeking the views of the industry on a range of measures to improve the competiveness of the farming sector.

Since it is International Women’s Day, may I take this opportunity to congratulate Minette Batters, who has recently become the first ever woman president of the National Farmers Union?

Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade and Investment)

I join the Minister in that sentiment.

Brexit is by far the greatest threat to Scottish farming. Given that Scotland has proportionately higher rates of common agricultural policy funding than elsewhere and that the types of farming that can take place in Scotland are very specific, will the Minister commit here and now to making sure that no subsidies to Scotland are cut after Brexit?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The hon. Lady will be aware of our intention that agricultural policy and the design of individual schemes will be very much a matter for the devolved Administrations. I look forward to seeing some of the proposals and suggestions that may come from the Scottish Government. We have offered to share our proposals with them so that they can learn from some of our analysis.

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston Conservative, Mid Worcestershire

I am proud that Vale of Evesham asparagus has been granted protected geographical indication status by the EU, which will help to boost its brand recognition and sales. Will PGI status still be recognised post Brexit?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Vale of Evesham asparagus obviously has a fantastic reputation across our country and, indeed, around the world. On protected food names, our intention is that the existing legislation will come across through the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. Third countries can already seek designations for the EU market, and the designations we already have in the UK will be protected through our domestic legislation.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence)

Thank you, Mr Speaker. One way to make small farms viable is to add value to their product. I was brought up on a small dairy farm, and my brother is now a successful cheesemaker—it is rather good cheese. Will the Minister undertake to instruct his officials to encourage small farms to go down this route and, as and when best practice is developed, will it be shared with the Scottish Government, because in my case this is, of course, a devolved matter?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We recognise the importance of our small family farms, and we also recognise that some of them may face more challenges in a transition from the old system to the future one. In our paper, we set out detailed proposals on a gradual transition to give them time to prepare, and we also set out a number of measures to help to support productivity, add value and get a fairer price for their products. We would of course be more than happy to share our proposals with the Scottish Government.

Photo of Daniel Kawczynski Daniel Kawczynski Conservative, Shrewsbury and Atcham

Shropshire farmers are pleased with some of the mood music coming from the Government about the financial support that they will get in a post-Brexit world. Will the Minister or one of his senior officials commit to come to the Shropshire show this year and continue that dialogue with our Shropshire farmers?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I thank my hon. Friend for that invitation, and either I or another Minister would be delighted to attend the Shropshire show, which will be part of this year’s agricultural show programme. It will be an important opportunity for us to engage with the industry.