Agriculture Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:14 pm on 10th October 2018.

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Photo of Chris Davies Chris Davies Conservative, Brecon and Radnorshire 3:14 pm, 10th October 2018

I do not share the hon. Lady’s concern. My constituency lies on the border, and there are of course border farmers between Scotland and England as well as between Wales and England, and we are concerned that we might see different processes taking place on either side of the border, causing great problems for cross-border farmers. I am afraid the hon. Lady, the leader of Plaid Cymru in Westminster, does not share that concern with Welsh farmers on the Welsh side of the border.

Farmers are also conservationists. They have a dual role; there is no difference—there is no difference at all. The Secretary of State visited a farm in my constituency just before the summer recess, and met farmers there—family farmers and Young Farmers’ Club members.

The Painscastle valley is a typical farming valley in Wales. It has a river at the bottom and well fenced and hedged green fields leading up to the commons above. This was not designed by a young civil servant with an environmental degree sitting in Westminster, Cardiff or Scotland, or by a bearded, sandal-wearing lifetime environmental campaigner, or even by a fashionable environmentalist who writes a blog and has thousands of Twitter followers. That scene, that valley and that countryside were designed and managed by generations of farmers over 300 years and more. Farmers really are the best people to take the environment and farming forward, and livestock farmers should be right to the fore in this brave new world of farming. They should be looking after our payments, guiding our policies and ensuring that they are there to provide the true knowledge of agriculture.

As the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on forestry, I should like to touch briefly on the subject of forestry. It has not been touched on a great deal in the debate so far. The Bill focuses on agriculture, as has my speech so far, but it is important to consider tree planting in this country. Brecon and Radnorshire is a large constituency in which forestry and timber production support many rural livelihoods. We have the largest sawmill in Wales, based in Newbridge-on-Wye and employing nearly 200 people. It is important that we support tree planting, and I was delighted to hear the Secretary of State giving a firm commitment during our conference a week or so ago to planting 11 million trees during this Parliament. I hope that he will be able to achieve that aim, because it is vital to maintain the timber processing industry, whether for flood prevention and mitigation or purely for products for the future, to enable it to thrive and prosper.