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Farmers and Environmental Groups (Funding)

Volume 617: debated on Thursday 24 November 2016

8. What steps her Department is taking to ensure that the level of funding for (a) farmers and (b) environmental groups is maintained after the UK leaves the EU. (907460)

My top priority on becoming DEFRA Secretary was agreeing with the Treasury continuity of support for farmers. We are guaranteeing that the agricultural sector will receive the same level of pillar one funding until 2020, which has provided vital certainty, but we are also guaranteeing agri-environment and rural development schemes under pillar two, which are vital to making sure we take every opportunity to improve our environment.

Many farmers in my constituency have been signed up to agri-environmental schemes for many years. What contribution does the Secretary of State think that the schemes, and our farmers, are making to improve our environment?

I join my hon. Friend in applauding the efforts of farmers across the country. In the past five years, our agri-environment schemes have delivered excellent long-term benefits, including 150,000 acres of habitats, the planting of more than 11 million trees and the restoration or planting of 950 miles of hedges. All of this supports our long-term pledge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better place than we found it.

Welsh farmers face a future of unprecedented uncertainty. Will the Secretary of State commit to devolving agricultural funding according to need, rather than through the unfit-for-purpose Barnett formula?

I can absolutely assure the hon. Lady that we will consult in great detail on future policy with all the devolved Administrations once we have left the EU, to ensure that we focus on what is best for our UK food and farming producers rather than for 28 EU member states.