CLA Director of External Affairs Tom Bartošák-Harlow provides an analysis of the Oxford Farming Conference.
This year’s Oxford Farming Conference was my first and although I’d never been before I had heard much about the high-quality speakers and the debates that take place. Safe to say these impressions were confirmed with delegates and speakers offering carefully thought-through and interesting views on the hot topics in farming be it Brexit, the latest technological innovations or how we can encourage more young people into the industry.
Michael Gove, as one would expect, provided a highly polished performance but didn’t really tell us anything new for rural businesses. He repeated his now well-trodden messages around the importance of productive farming and environmental enhancement. While rightly warning about the dangers of a no deal Brexit he only continued to offer warm words on future trade deals not undermining UK environmental and animal welfare standards. It is time for the UK Government and the Secretary of State to move beyond warm words and commit to legislating for this protection.
David Drew MP, the Shadow Farming Minister, confirmed from the conference stage that Labour will be supporting amendments that would legislate to this effect when the Agriculture Bill returns to Parliament. This potentially gives the Government a headache with many Conservative MPs likely to support the amendment too.
The Oxford Real Farming Conference was also held last week and although I wasn’t able to attend the CLA was well represented with Director of Policy Christopher Price speaking at events on issues including the uplands and debating Green Party MEP Molly Scott Cato on the future of land ownership.
Unfortunately, the conference was over all too quickly and I was on a train back to London, but I’m already looking forward to returning in 2020.