British agriculture should have more powers to drive the industry forward independent of the European Union, but food producers are best served by being part of the continent’s single marketplace, the Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said this week.
Speaking at the Northern Farming Conference at Hexham Auction Mart on Wednesday, the Secretary of State told nearly 300 farmers and landowners that many agricultural regulations set in Brussels were hindering British farmers.
The new ‘three crop rule’ which will require some farmers with more than 30 hectares of arable land to grow three different crops from January was an example of how Britain should not be dictated to by Brussels, she said.
“It’s wrong for people in Brussels to be dictating what crops our farmers are growing here in England,” Mrs Truss said. “I was out in Europe on Monday at the first agri fish council of the new commission and I met (Agriculture) Commissioner Hogan, and I put that point to him that we want to see as early as possible a review of the three crop rule to see what impact it is having.”
Mrs Truss addressed the issue of Europe when a delegate asked for assurances that the Government “was not going to destroy British agriculture by taking the country out of the EU”.
She replied: “I was born in 1975 which is the year of the referendum on the EU and no one of my generation or indeed older than me has had the opportunity to express their view on what is happening. A lot of people at the time voted for a single market.
“I have said very clearly that I think a single market is very important. It is an important part of our trade with our nearest neighbours. It’s hugely important for the food and farming industry but I think it’s right that people have a say on what has happened in terms of development of free movement of people and the regulatory burden we see coming from Europe, and I know because I see that 25 per cent of the regulations that we are looking at (to cut) across Government are in Defra. On issues such as environment and agriculture it does have a big impact on our businesses and on food and farming.
“I have every confidence that the Prime Minister will do a good job in negotiating more decision making happening at UK level while remaining part of the EU and I think that environment and agriculture is a major area in which that can happen.
“Where we have got the level of regulation we are seeing on all kinds of issues on things like pesticides, that is not the ideal agricultural policy so what I would like to see is a reformed policy with more decision making taking place in Britain whilst remaining part of the single market. That’s the ideal outcome in my opinion.”
Mrs Truss was speaking at the annual Northern Farming Conference held at Hexham Auction Mart.
The event was staged jointly by the Country Land and Business Association, Strutt & Parker, Bond Dickinson, Armstrong Watson, Catchment Sensitive Farming and Gibson & Co Solicitors.