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Farming Policy

Volume 640: debated on Thursday 3 May 2018

12. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on negotiations on farming policy for when the UK leaves the EU. (905130)

We continue to work closely with Ministers and officials from all Departments, including DEFRA, to further our preparations for our exit from and new partnership with the EU. The Secretary of State continues to have regular conversations with his Cabinet colleagues on all aspects of exiting the EU, including agriculture. All Ministers are clear that leaving the EU means leaving the common agricultural policy and making our own decisions for our own farmers’ benefit, for the first time in around half a century.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. I regularly meet farmers in Corby and east Northamptonshire who are excited about the opportunities ahead to redefine and reshape our agricultural policy. Can the Minister confirm that they will be directly involved in that process?

Yes, I can. If we are to redesign our country’s agricultural policy, it is of course right that we seek input from our farmers. Our consultation paper, which can be found on the Government’s website, seeks views on plans for a more dynamic and self-reliant agriculture industry, as we continue to compete on the world stage, supplying products of the highest standards to the domestic market and increasing exports. I strongly encourage not only farmers but everyone who cares about the food that we eat to contribute before the consultation closes next Tuesday.

The food and farming industry is already facing challenges in recruiting the skills and labour needed to keep that sector going. What will the Government do to ensure that those skills are there and that the labour force is there through and beyond Brexit?

We are taking back control of our borders, but we should always welcome people who come here to contribute to our economy. We have asked the independent Migration Advisory Committee to look carefully at how we can reach this goal. Its report is due in September and it would be wrong to pre-empt it.

When will we see a seasonal agricultural workers scheme for UK farmers to ensure that our crops do not rot in the ground?

At the moment, farmers have access to European economic area migrants. I look forward to the Migration Advisory Committee’s report. The Home Office is of course perfectly capable of instituting a seasonal workers scheme, should one be necessary, in due course.