The decision to leave the EU is the biggest decision this country has taken for half a century and it presents huge opportunities to do things differently and better on policies like agriculture as we regain control. In June, the Queen’s Speech included a commitment to a new Agriculture Bill in this session, the first such Bill since we joined the EU.
I spent ten years working in the farming industry and I am passionate about the chance we now have to think about policy from first principles and to put in place new thinking and innovative ideas. Over the last year I have been meeting farmers up and down the country to discuss what the future might look like.
Almost three quarters of the UK is agricultural land and we need to make sure we have the right policies in place to deliver both for farming and our countryside. That is why the Government has committed to keep the budget for farm support the same in cash terms for the lifetime of this Parliament. We will also start a transition to something better, where funds are targeted towards developing farm profitability, environmental improvement and high standards of animal welfare. There have been many interesting ideas put forward and in the months ahead we will be developing our thinking further.
If we want to make farming more profitable then we need to help farmers invest in new technology to improve productivity and reduce costs. We need to ensure that research and development features more prominently in the future. We need to support farmers to come together and collaborate to ensure they get a fairer share of the value chain and we need to help them manage the risks that are inherent in agriculture.
We also have an opportunity to do things differently when it comes to the environment with support delivering improved soil husbandry and habitats for wildlife. We can have schemes that are tailored to local needs but also systems that are simpler, more effective and which rely far less on a complex and arbitrary rule book. Finally, we can pursue policies that will build further on our international reputation for high standards of animal welfare.
There is much to do over the next year but I am confident that by working together, we will ensure our farmers have a bright and prosperous future ahead.