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Gove admits food was not referenced enough in future policy vision

Environment Secretary Michael Gove. Picture by John Stillwell/PA Wire.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove. Picture by John Stillwell/PA Wire.
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Environment Secretary Michael Gove has admitted that the Government’s consultation paper on the future of farming after Brexit did not go far enough to recognise the role of food production.

Farmers expressed concern that their role as producers of food was not a prominent enough feature of Whitehall’s vision for the future of the industry in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) Health and Harmony document published in February.

Mr Gove responded to that criticism in an address to farmers at a reception held in the House of Commons by the National Farmers’ Union.

Read more: Farming tops the agenda at Commons reception for MPs

Some 44,000 responses were submitted to the Defra consultation and the Cabinet minister said: “One of the strongest and clearest responses was from farmers everywhere who said ‘this is great but you need to say more about food and in particular you need to develop a food strategy’.

“I acknowledge that during the course of the consultation that yes, even though we had 65 sperate references to food in the paper, that wasn’t enough. And it is also the case that, as I confirmed to the EFRA Select Committee, we will be coming forward with a food strategy later this year.”

He also acknowledged that while farming will become “more and more enabled by technology” that the Government needs to make sure that farms have access to high quality labour and, as Britain leaves the EU, access to seasonal labour. That argument had been “heard, received and understood” across government, he said.