Examination of Witnesses

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 25th October 2018.

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David Baldock:

I fully confess to having “environment” in my organisation’s title, and to being interested in the environment. I have spent quite a lot of the last 30 years working for DG AGRI in Brussels, so I have some familiarity with the farming community. I can understand why farmers worry about the lack of warm words about agriculture and food production in the Bill. It is a pretty dry Bill, and it does not give that signal.

When it comes to the actual substance, whether it is here or in Europe as a whole, the future of agriculture policy is about agriculture, environment, sustainability and public goods. That is as true in any other part of Europe as it is in the UK. That is where the direction of travel is going, and there are good reasons for that. Farmers know that if they are to keep receiving public money, it will be on the basis that they are delivering public goods. There has to be a deal between the public expectation—that that is what the money is for—and the absolute value of farming and food production per se. I do not think that the environmental people, who may be over-represented right now, should apologise for being important voices—loud voices, anyway—in the debate, because it has become so central to agricultural policy everywhere.