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Sustainable Farming

Volume 702: debated on Thursday 28 October 2021

Environmental sustainability is fundamental to our new approach. Our new schemes will pay for regenerative farming practices, improvements to animal health and welfare, reductions in carbon emissions, cleaner water, and habitat renewal.

I recently visited Henry Hunt and other young Bedfordshire farmers who are already doing amazing work to significantly improve their soils. What more can we do to encourage other farmers to follow their example as brilliantly shown in the documentary “Kiss the Ground” and ensure that, when environmental land management payments start, there is not a gap with the basic payments scheme ending?

My hon. Friend has already told me about his great meeting with Henry Hunt—one of his farmers—recently. I accept that the change from area-based payments to public money for public goods is challenging for farmers. The new system is being brought in gradually over seven years, but I reassure him that there is much in the new system for soil health, including one of the first eight standards, which has already been published. The soil health action plan and the Environment Bill will help, too.

Many of my constituency farmers have already diversified and have been successful in that. Has consideration been given to funding diversification projects such as milk and eggs vending machines to enable farmers to boost their incomes so that they can farm the land and pay the bills?

It is slightly difficult to answer that question directly because this is a devolved issue. But, yes, grants are available for new pieces of technology that will help farmers with both diversification and making their businesses more sustainable.

In Harlow we have a serious problem with horses being tethered on the roadside and cruelly treated. Will my hon. Friend introduce restrictions or ban this barbaric practice once and for all?

The tethering of horses is a serious issue about which I have spoken to my right hon. Friend many times in the past. I suggest we meet to discuss if there is more we can do to end unnecessary horse tethering. Occasionally this can be an appropriate practice.

I just say to Members that if they are bobbing to their feet then they should keep bobbing as otherwise I will think they have changed their mind about wishing to speak. Knowing who is standing and who is not helps me all the way through.

We now come to a more interesting matter: I call Neale Hanvey to ask Question 6. He is not here. If Members are not going to be present, they must let the Chair know. May I suggest once again that the Minister answers the question even though the Member is not here, although he was due to be?