It’s been a pleasure travelling around the country meeting the wonderful farmers who make up our thriving rural communities – and I was particularly eager to attend the Great Yorkshire Show last week, as the shows in Yorkshire take some beating.
The knock-on effects of world events and turbulence on international markets have once again brought into focus the important work our farmers do to produce our food and help ensure our national resilience.
Global gas prices have led to increased input costs, particularly for manufactured fertilisers, livestock feed, energy and fuel. It’s crucial we do everything we can to support the farming sector, which is why we have already announced a number of measures to support growers this season, including moving to more regular payments from the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).
I am firm believer in ‘‘Buy British’’ and Yorkshire and the Humber is one of the biggest areas in the country for pig farming, contributing 37 per cent to the English total pig count. I am fully aware of the recent challenges experienced by the sector caused by rising costs and labour.
We have helped where we can. We have already introduced temporary work visas for pork butchers, and schemes to incentivise abattoirs to increase slaughtering capacity for pigs. I’m now pleased to be launching our review into the Pig Supply Chain.
We are seeking views on a wide range of topics – from price reporting to market consolidation – and it’s vital we hear directly from everyone involved. I urge farmers, butchers and retailers to come forward and take part.
Brexit is allowing us to design an independent farming policy for the first time in half a century which means we can give farmers the support that they need.
The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy did not support food production. It involved a system of subsidies for land ownership with a complex and draconian set of cross-compliance rules attached as conditions.
The team in Defra has worked with more than 4,000 farmers, 101 pilot farmers in Yorkshire and Humber region alone, to test the new schemes. We have now opened the first of our new schemes – the Sustainable Farming Incentive.
The scheme will incentivise farmers to look after the assets that protect our food security – like soil. Food production and environmental protection must go hand in hand.
It supports the choices that individual farmers make, letting them pick the options that work for their own holding and get paid them.
Any farmer who is eligible for BPS will qualify and they can apply whenever they want to.
We have deliberately got rid of old style “application windows” with hard deadlines. So, if a farmer wants to sign up now, they can, or if they want to wait until the end of the summer or the quiet winter months, they can join then instead.
The payments will be spread across the year in quarterly instalments, helping farmers with their cash flow. We’ll open applications for common land later this summer, once we’ve tested it with commoners to make sure it works for them.
Farmers will receive payment within four months of their agreements starting, and payment rates are more targeted than previous EU schemes. We want to support farmers with the choices they take for their farms, and I urge them to apply.
We have every reason to be very optimistic about our future agricultural schemes, as farmers are voting with their application forms.
Around 2,000 Countryside Stewardship agreement holders live in North Yorkshire, and we will help farmers in Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship schemes make the transition to our new schemes from 2024 onwards.
I’ve always said this is an evolution not a revolution designed in the best interests of farmers and I am committed to supporting them throughout the transition as we make farming in this country simpler, fairer, more proportionate, more accessible and more effective.