Examination of Witnesses

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:25 pm on 11th February 2020.

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Graeme Willis:

Yes, climate change being one of the objectives. It is very important, given we know the level of emissions from upland peat, that the intentions of the Bill should cover those areas and ELM should be able to deliver on that within that wider land restoration component, if that be. I think that will be very important, because where else will the resource come from to do that? The 25-year plan had a £10 million fund. Scotland has committed £250 million for restoration, so we need money to be identified that can go towards that restoration over the longer period. There is an issue about the viability of those peatlands in the long term in a warming climate if they are managed in a different way. That makes things even more contentious.

I am pleased that you mentioned county farms. I am not a specialist on entrants, but I think something on supporting new entrants should be in the Bill through an amendment to that effect. The Minister has spoken about investing in county farms on several occasions and to the EFRA Committee. He welcomed the idea as a very interesting development. The farms could be invested in so that they can produce more peri-urban horticulture, for example, which might be one way to make smaller units viable. As was referred to earlier, there is an economic question around those. An amendment to invest and fund—or to give the Secretary of State powers to invest and fund—county farms to be developed and improved for wider purposes, would be great.

We would also consider asking for a protective lock on county farm estates while they can develop new wider sets of purposes, so that they can be invested in for the future. Wider purposes in terms of mitigating and adapting to climate change, supporting connection to the countryside, access to land and landscapes and the realities of farming, would be very welcome.