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Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:44 pm on 21st January 2020.

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Photo of Dr Caroline Johnson Dr Caroline Johnson Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 2:44 pm, 21st January 2020

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. He is right that, for too long, farmers have not necessarily been treated fairly by all the supermarkets. The Groceries Code Adjudicator and some voluntary schemes by some of the supermarkets are improving the situation, but I do agree that there is still a long way to go to ensure that farmers receive a fair proportion of the reward for food production.

Will the Minister elaborate on what guidance and help will be available to smaller farmers to ensure that they can easily understand the scheme options, rather than having to go through lots of government papers?

Finally, I want to echo a couple of points that have been made on the multi-year settlements. Minette Batters, head of the National Farmers Union, and some Members in the Chamber today have talked about the importance of a multi-year settlement. This Bill does great things in ensuring that farmers know what they will get this year, but, as yet, although we know the size of the envelope, we do not know how the money will be targeted for the year after. When designing environmental schemes, I would encourage the Minister to design longer-term ones as far as possible, because if a farmer is to plant trees or plough up fields to create a meadow, they need to know that that will be there for a long time, and that they will not have to change it again, or be incentivised to plough that meadow up again in two years’ time.