Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert met South Downs farmers on Friday 19th January to discuss the challenges they face as Britain leaves the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy.
The meeting was convened by the West Sussex branch of the National Farmers Union (NFU) and hosted by David and Caroline Harriott at Tolmare Farm, Findon.
The visit combined a farm tour and a discussion on agricultural policy. Brexit continues to be the issue of greatest concern to farmers, and Mr Herbert heard concerns about how farms would remain viable food producers as government support for agriculture changes.
The Government has guaranteed that the cash it allocates to farming support will be protected until the end of this Parliament in 2022.
Farm payments, which are currently made per acre, will continue for an extended transition period, providing farmers who currently receive payments with a guaranteed income, although the largest payments will be reduced. After this transition period, payments will only be made for ‘public goods’ such as environmental protection and enhancement.
Arundel & South Downs is a large rural constituency covering 250 square miles. NFU members manage nearly 33,000 acres in the constituency, amounting to over a fifth of the total area, employing well over 2,000 people. They are responsible not just for the food they produce but also for the management of the local landscape and environment.
Mr Herbert recently backed an NFU campaign ‘Back British Farming’, saying: “I will always back British farming, which is the lynchpin of the countryside we love, and this is a particularly important time to do so as we leave the EU and shape a domestic agricultural policy.”
The MP also pledged his support to a recent RSPCA campaign to promote the importance of retaining high animal welfare and environmental standards in farming.
James Osman, County Advisor for the NFU in West Sussex, East Sussex and the Isle of Wight, said: “We are really pleased to have Nick’s support for British farming at what is a crucial time for the industry. British farmers have a pivotal role to play in shaping the countryside and delivering for the environment, food production and employment in rural areas.
“We also had an opportunity to talk to Nick about one of the biggest issues facing farmers in Sussex – livestock worrying. Sussex is one of the worst affected counties in the UK for dogs attacking livestock, and we look forward to working with Nick on ways to tackle this issue.”
Nick Herbert said: “I always enjoy farm visits and I value discussions with local farmers. We must never forget that it is farmers who manage and conserve the South Downs countryside we love, as well as producing food.”