MP’s column: Agri-food sector ‘bedrock’ of economy
Our fields have been tilled since Roman times, but more recently we’ve set records for crop yields.
Our county, taken as a whole, produces an entire eighth of the UK’s food and 70 per cent of fish are processed through Lincolnshire.
I’ve been very concerned about the court case which led to Natural England being forced to withdraw the general licences that allow farmers to shoot crows, pigeons, and other pests that plague their fields.
Like it or not, shooting is absolutely necessary to control these pests and to keep crops undamaged.
The move to withdraw the licences was not a matter of government policy, but was implemented suddenly because of a successful legal challenge.
My understanding is that Natural England are now rushing to supply new licences that are within the legal understanding that this new judicial ruling provides.
This should allow farmers to carry on with their important work safeguarding our county’s role furnishing England with its rich cornucopia of food.
The agri-food sector is an absolute bedrock of the country’s economy.
It generates £112 billion a year to Britain’s economy and it’s too little appreciated that farmers are central to the protection of our environment.
The Government is committed to continue the same cash total in terms of funding support for farming through the scheduled end of this parliament in 2022.
Once we’re out of the European Union, we will erect a new scheme of subsidies to replace the Common Environmental Policy.
We will also be leaving the Common Fisheries Policy, which has been an environmental disaster in addition to destroying so many of our fishing communities across Britain’s ample coastlines.
The Fisheries Bill, currently working its way through Parliament, will end the automatic right for EU vessels to fish in British waters.
Access to fishing will be a matter for other countries to negotiate with us for suitable terms, giving us the right to set quotas.
It will also give us greater powers to protect the marine environment by ensuring that decisions over fisheries management will be made strategically and with the long-term future in mind.
Our environment is more than agriculture and fishing, however.
The Environment Bill, also currently before Parliament, will introduce legislative measures to take direct action addressing air quality, nature recovery, waste and resource efficiency, and water resource management.
If passed, the bill sets up a new system of green governance.
An Office for Environmental Protection will be established to ensure we succeed in leaving the environment in a better condition than we found it.
The draft clauses also place our 25 Year Environment Plan on a statutory footing.
It also introduces a set of environmental principles that will be used to guide future government policy making.
Leaving the European Union means that Great Britain can develop global gold standard environmental policies and taking a more targeted approach to ensure that our fields, rivers, coasts, and communities have a sustainable future.
Sir Edward Leigh MP