Great Yorkshire Show: Business as usual, insists Truss

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss maintained that she was focused on the job of preparing the country's farming industry for its post-Brexit future amid speculation over her future role.

Liz Truss MP at the Great Yorkshire Show.

Miss Truss, who was at the Great Yorkshire Show to hold talks with farming leaders and to champion British food and drink, expressed her confidence in the industry’s future outside of the European Union.

Despite having campaigned for Britain to stay in the EU, the Leeds-raised MP said she was committed to delivering Britain’s exit in a successful way for farming.

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But her confidence was not echoed by a leading academic. According to Professor Wyn Grant, who wrote an agricultural report on the industry’s future options, the farming community faces a real challenge to influence the Government’s agenda.

Liz Truss MP at the Great Yorkshire Show.

The Warwick University politics professor told a meeting of the Future Farmers of Yorkshire group at the show that the Farmer Scientist Network report had not influenced the pre-referendum debate in the way he had hoped.

Prof Grant said: “One of our objectives with our report was to try and get greater attention given to agriculture and the food chain in the referendum debate. We were not very successful and I’m concerned this will happen again in the Article 50 negotiations.

“The work of our working party will continue and it will have two main tasks – monitoring the negotiations in terms of their impact on agriculture and contributing to the debate on a new agricultural policy.”

Prof Grant said he believes farmers will continue to receive subsidies but the industry has to clearly articulate the case for direct payments – as provided currently via the EU’s Basic Payment Scheme.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss

“The future of subsidies is clearly a matter of concern for many enterprises because they make the difference between running at a profit and running at a loss,” he said. “We are confident that there is a strong coalition of support for the continuation of strong agri-environment subsidies, but we are much less confident about Basic Payment subsidies.

“We don’t think they will be abolished but we do think they will be a target for the Treasury.”

Miss Truss brushed off the uncertainty surrounding her position as Theresa May started work as Prime Minister.

“That’s a matter for the Prime Minister,” she said. “She starts this afternoon so I am sure that we will know about that pretty quickly.”

Liz Truss MP at the Great Yorkshire Show.

Miss Truss said she was committed to drawing up a new British agricultural policy. “As part of our manifesto commitment we have already been working on a long-term plan, a 25-year plan for food and farming and for the environment so we have already got a framework to work off, but of course we will need to bring in new people, particularly in areas like trade and we are working on that at the moment as well.”

On Mrs May’s appointment, she said: “She has got the toughness we need to get a good deal in Europe. She’s very committed to farming, to rural communities.

“I’ve already discussed those issues with her and I’m looking forward to her being in office.”

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss