Defra Secretary of State Liz Truss identified three key issues she saw as priorities for the immediate future of farming at the Royal Cornwall Show yesterday (9 June) and said the Government would shortly be revealing details of its 25 year plan for helping farmers improve competitiveness and resilience.
The CLA, which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses hosted the Secretary of State at a CLA breakfast for 240 members and guests where she confirmed her priorities were bovine TB, reducing red tape and improving the Basic Payment Scheme.
She said she was absolutely determined to deal with TB and said it would be a huge mistake for the Government to listen to the voices raised in protest because, in addition to cattle management regimes, she was absolutely clear there was a need to cull badgers in areas where the disease was rife.
“When we came into Government in 2010, this country had the highest level of TB in Europe – and while I am Secretary of State we will carry on fighting this disease until it is eradicated,” she said.
She added she was concerned that people were under the illusion that leaving the EU would mean dumping red tape and regulation and she warned that not all regulations emanated from Europe – but promised action including a single inspection regime reducing on-farm inspections by 20,000 annually and a re-alignment of boundaries between Natural England and the Environment Agency.
“If we leave the EU we are not going to end up in some red tape-free nirvana. But I do understand that we have to get out of the way of farmers, we want them to be able to spend their time farming, not filling in forms.”
Speaking about the referendum she emphasised the importance of access to the single market and how the legacy of BSE meant that while we were exporting large amounts of beef to Europe, the American and Chinese markets were still closed to us.
She said: “I fully recognise that the EU is far from perfect and I do not have a magic wand to cure all the problems, but neither do I want to spend the next 10 years going through a painful divorce, renegotiating and disentangling ourselves from Europe. That will be a diversion from the serious issues of improving investment in our industry, of building competiveness and resilience.”
CLA President Ross Murray said the vote on Europe was a momentous decision for everybody, the result of which will affect the whole country and each of us individually for generations to come. He confirmed that the CLA would not be instructing members how they should vote and would be ensuring both arguments were heard at events taking place over the course of the show.
Mr Murray praised the Minister’s determination to tackle bovine TB saying there was now a strong strategy in place which everybody, collectively, must deliver on.
He said: “It will take courage and persistence and I wish to acknowledge the courage and determination of the Secretary of State in this endeavour.”