Agricultural and County Shows — [Dr Rupa Huq in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 1:40 pm on 21st July 2022.

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Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Conservative, North West Durham 1:40 pm, 21st July 2022

I thank the hon. Member for raising that point. One important point that I would mention to him, though, is that we need to have a really productive farming sector, and I am glad that the Government are looking to introduce some measures to drive that productivity. If we look across the sea to Holland, which actually has more people employed in the agricultural sector than we do, it has introduced some very productive farming measures over the past few years. There has to be a broader picture, but capital investment in particular is going to be essential if we are to grow our way out of the issues we face with not just food security, but the rural economy.

To pick up on a broader theme that both my right hon. Friend Stephen Crabb and David Linden have highlighted, I am really keen that we put our focus on the environment where it can do most good. In my area, we have huge amounts of upland peat, and there is currently a lot of grit removal going on, which is helping to ensure that our rural communities can engage in carbon capture and storage on relatively low-value agricultural land. Peat takes up four times as much carbon dioxide per acre as forestry, so I would much rather concentrate on where we can get the biggest bang for our environmental buck and not be pushing afforestation as widely as possible, particularly on higher-value agricultural land. That is a particularly important point; it is something I have discussed with Ministers, and it is something the Government are moving towards.

British farming is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector; in fact, it is important to remember that we could not have had an industrial revolution without an agricultural revolution before it. Despite the enormous output, with the specialisation and diversification of Britain’s farms and the premium products they produce, we now need to aim for another agricultural revolution. That is why I am so keen to ensure that we get some real capital into our farming communities to help drive the next wave, because those things go hand in hand with each other.

I am proud of the unique output of our farming communities, and I am particularly proud to see them celebrated in these rural shows. As I said, those shows bring us together as local towns and communities to see what is happening on the farm—I am sure Members from across the House will have seen that locally. We do not want our agricultural and rural communities to just become the sites of holiday homes.