THE ENVIRONMENT Secretary has said winning back farming powers should be part of David Cameron’s renegotiations ahead of an EU referendum.
Liz Truss has told farmers she backed their calls for a reform of the regulations surrounding the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy.
Prime Minister David Cameron has faced some criticism for not going into enough detail on just which powers would be clawed back from the EU ahead of a promised referendum on UK membership in 2017.
In response to pressure for farmers at an NFU meeting, Ms Truss made clear she wanted to push for a rethink in how Brussels controls farming regulations and funding in the UK.
She said: “There’s a strong opportunity for putting a case for a better CAP now so we have a clear view to say these are the regulations hitting farmers hardest, how can we get more control at a UK-level on some of those policies.
“The question is to know what we would want if we designed the agricultural reform ourselves.”
She added: “The new commissioner is an opportunity for us. We do have to find allies.
“We have an opportunity with the new commissioner coming in, because we need to make clear it’s a big problem if we cannot grow the crops we as a country need to.”
While welcoming the renegotiation comments, NFU president Meurig Raymond warned farmers would be concerned if any “repatriation” of the CAP gave the UK Treasury greater control over agriculture.
Ms Truss has said in an interview with The Yorkshire Post that more had to be done to ensure farming’s contribution to the economy was recognised.
She said one of her aims was to see an increase in the number of unique food and drink exports from English regions.
She said: “Yorkshire is a great county for food and farming. There are lots of protected area, such as Wensleydale, the Dales landscape itself and the rhubarb triangle. We need to think how can we promote this past just here in the UK.
“We really want to open up new exports, with beef to the US or pork to China, or say the Ilkley Brewery.
“I tasted their beers during the Tour de France. My brother lives in Addingham, the only village the Tour went through twice.
“He was well stocked up on them, and that’s one of the firms that has been a real success story overseas.
“We have a massive opportunity to repeat that with other producers.”
Ms Truss said one way she would look to support the industry was in Government backing for food labelling that identifies a product’s heritage.
“People buy into the landscape and history of a place such as Yorkshire, and it helps sell those goods,” she said.
After her first few months in the job, Ms Truss appeared to have won some support from the farming sector with her promise to challenge those who think it is a “sunset industry”.
She said: “I want to help put farming role models in the spotlight on the national level so we can see how brilliant this industry is.
“We will be doing further things through the year to promote British farming and say this is a really exciting industry.
“It is not a sunset industry. It is a sunrise industry and you should be getting involved in it.”